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2014 Newsletters
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(The Many Faces of Hope & Healing)
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(Should You Be Evaluated for Adult ADHD?)
2013 Newsletters
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(Bringing Our Darkness to the Light: Exposing Shame and Living with Vulnerability)
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(Bringing Our Darkness to the Light: Exposing Shame and Living with Vulnerability)
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(2012 Annual Report)
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(The Transformational Power of Gratitude)
2012 Newsletters
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(Celebrating 40 years of Hope and Healing)
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(Surviving the Grief Journey!)
2011 Newsletters
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(Lessons Learned from Saying "Good-bye")
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(GROUP THERAPY: HEALING Through CONNECTION)
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(2010 Annual Report)
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(We've Moved!)
2010 Newsletters
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(Forgiveness: A Journey Towards Healing)
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(At Our Peril: Addressing End-of-Life Care)
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(Job Loss)
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(2009 Annual Report)
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(How to Enjoy 'Snow Days' Every Season of the Year)
2009 Newsletters
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(The Work of Play)
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(Adolescence: Understanding What Teens Need from Their Parents)
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(Sibling Relationships - Recognizing the Significance)
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(2008 Annual Report)
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(The Wisdom of Dough: Everything in Its Own Time)
2008 Newsletters
iconNovember-December 2008 Connecting Newsletter
(Chronic Illness: Beyond the Physical Symptoms)
iconSeptember-October 2008 Connecting Newsletter
(Tough Times Take Their Toll on Mental Health)
iconJuly-August 2008 Connecting Newsletter
(Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Career Path)
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(2007 Annual Report)
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(Reconnecting with Our Souls, Enlivening Our Spirits)
2007 Newsletters
iconNovember-December 2007 Connecting Newsletter
(Healing Your Spirit, Mind, and Body)
iconSeptember-October 2007 Connecting Newsletter
(The Wall)
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(Counseling in an Age of Sound Bites)
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(Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life)
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(2006 Annual Report. 35 YEARS of HOPE and HEALING IN OUR COMMUNITY)
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(Pastoral Counseling: An Invitation to Living More Abundantly)
2006 Newsletters
iconNovember-December 2006 Connecting Newsletter
(Spiritual Gifts from Clients)
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(Mental Health after Childbirth)
iconJuly-August 2006 Connecting Newsletter
(MANifest - Offering Hope in a Changing World)
iconMay-June 2006 Connecting Newsletter
(Psychotherapy: Moving from "Top Down" to "Bottom Up")
iconMarch-April 2006 Connecting Newsletter
(Threatened With Resurrection)
iconJanuary-February 2006 Connecting Newsletter
(Autism: Being There)
2005 Newsletters
iconNovember-December 2005 Connecting Newsletter
(The Wintered Spirit)
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(Cultural Myths)
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(Ways to Nurture and Enrich a Loving Relationship)
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(The Impact of Abuse on a Child's Development)
iconWomen Helping Women Presentation
(In Our Choices We Create, 3-11-05)
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(Reprocessing Therapy - EMDR)
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(Befriending Your Body)
2004 Newsletters
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(American Television: Marketing Violence to Our Children)
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(The Face of God)
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(Creativity: The Playful, Healing Spirit)
iconMay-June 2004 Connecting Newsletter
(Thoughts on the Passion - When Will the Violence End?)
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(Sexuality and Spirituality)
iconJanuary-February 2004 Connecting Newsletter
(What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This)
2003 Newsletters
iconNovember-December 2003 Connecting Newsletter
(Over the River and Through the Woods)
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(Little Things Make a Big Difference)
iconJuly-August 2003 Connecting Newsletter
(Risk & Resilience: Ways to Protect Our children)
iconMay-June 2003 Connecting Newsletter
(Adult Children of Aging Parents: Frequently Asked Questions)
iconMarch-April 2003 Connecting Newsletter
(Parental Anger: At What Cost to our Children)
iconJanuary-February 2003 Connecting Newsletter
(Energetic Approaches to Psychological Healing)
2002 Newsletters
iconNovember-December 2002 Connecting Newsletter
(The Next Thirty Years)
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(Launching Young Adults)
iconJuly-August 2002 Connecting Newsletter
(Trusting Your Teen)
iconMay-June 2002 Connecting Newsletter
(Retire and Thirive)
iconMarch-April 2002 Connecting Newsletter
(Work and Worth)
iconJanuary-February 2002 Connecting Newsletter
(Beyond Time Out)
2001 Newsletters
iconSeptember-October 2001 Connecting Newsletter
(Shame and the Experience of Being Human)
iconNovember-December 2001 Connecting Newsletter
(A Closer Look at Evil)

Chris’ Blog: Whatever the Question, The Answer is Grace

Whatever the Question, The Answer is Grace

by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

February 2021 — “Whatever the question, the answer is grace.” I was about 19 when my pastor said this to me. I was a mess. I was worried about being accepted by God. I was worried about being alone for the rest of my life. I was worried about not being good enough in about fifty different ways. I was “freaking out!”

“Whatever the question, the answer is grace.”

Does that sound too fluffy and simplistic to you? Sometimes it does to me. But not that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It cut to the core of everything that was driving my fear and anxiety, perfectionism!

It did not help that I belonged to a denomination that constantly talked about how God was always moving us toward “perfection!” The goal was “perfection in love,” to become the kind of person that responded out of love no matter what the situation. Now my pastor seemed to be completely removing the goal line, “Whatever the question, the answer is grace?”

More and more I am discovering the deep truth of Jim’s words that day. Grace in my faith tradition is the unconditional love and power of God at work for good in our lives and in creation. Grace comes first, not sin, not belief in God, not repentance. . . grace for ALL creation. The Word that called all that is into being and sustains that being in every moment is Grace.

My worth. . . your worth. . . is not ever earned, diminished, or up for grabs. It is a given and a constant. It does not change with my performance or my situation. Trusting in this sacred worth God grants to ALL also helps me with that “perfection in love” part of my tradition.

“Perfection in love” does not mean I do not make mistakes. It means that my initial response in any circumstance is to do what is most loving. That is a very large and compelling vision, and, I really do want to be that kind of person. . . but I am not. But here is the catch. . . I can’t do it, at least, not as a force of will. Such love must be a transformation of my very being.

I am not saying that it does not involve my actions or that it does not involve my choices. What I am saying is, I do not do it. God’s grace is always acting on me and I can choose to work with or work against that movement of love in my life. I choose and act, but God is always the one urging, directing, empowering, and transforming.

Sometimes I experience Grace as providence. Sometimes I experience Grace as warning. Sometimes I experience Grace as forgiveness. Sometimes I experience Grace as a kick in the butt to take a risk get tough and/or be more vulnerable.

Grace is the Love that holds me and adores me. This is something that the mystics, people of deep prayerful connection with God and creation, from many different religious traditions have in common. When they stop, allow themselves to be open to the mystery of life and being they speak of experiencing a deep connection to a Love that delights in all of us and all of creation.

Grace is NOT God “getting over” or “looking past” our sin, or imperfections, to “Love us anyway.” I cringe now when I realize how many times I must have used this “God loves us anyway” phrase as a pastor. When I realized how pathetic it was I vowed never to do it again. I am convinced God does not need to “get over” anything to love us. . . God adores us period.

Why am I so convinced? Because, as I said, it is a consistent experience of deeply prayerful people across religious traditions. It is what I find most compelling in the most loving people I know. It is the way I have experienced love from those who have loved me most deeply, and it is the way I love my own child.

Harvey

If this is true of my experience of love, then how much more must it be true of God! Please give up the the image of God “getting over stuff” to love you “anyway”. . . that image of love is a thousand times too small to fit The Ground and Source of All Being. Frankly, It does not even fit my love for my dog, who I certainly do adore.

Speaking of my dog, Harvey does have some growing edges. So do I. Harvey steals shoes and chews them up. I do not steal shoes but I do have some self-destructive tendencies, unhealthy attachments, prejudices, and bad habits.

This is part of what Christians call “sin.” As a teenager someone told me “God cannot use you if there is sin in your life.” That is part of what was troubling me when I was 19. How could I ever know that there was no sin in my life? There was so much to work on and in some cases I was not even sure what was and what was not a sin! I even thought not thinking correctly about God might be a sin! No wonder I was freaking out!

Of course, now, I realize that even a casual reading of the Bible, history book, or newspaper, will demonstrate God using people ‘with sin in their lives” doing incredibly brave, faithful, and loving things.

Still, I do not like to admit my faults, sins, or even bad habits. However, this is where grace helps me. This is why saying “Whatever the question, the answer is grace” is not a “pass” on growth or accountability but an empowering proverb.

If I feel I have to work on everything at once. The weight of it all is simply too overwhelming and I can easily become demoralized and stuck in guilt and shame. This makes it hard to be vulnerable, to feel loved, to give love freely, or to take a leap of faith, which is precisely how we become our true selves. Grace takes much of the pressure off. Grace says “Your worth as a person is not at risk. You do not have to work on everything at once. Let the same Love that called you into being sustain you as it also transforms you.”

I am guessing that you, like me have growing edges, unhealthy attachments, bad habits, fears, resentments, and other garbage. You may or may not use the same “sin” or “God” language that I do. However, I believe this experience is universally human.

Might it be true that you cannot work on everything at once? Might that be ok? Might accepting this actually be empowering to actually make a meaningful change? If so, what would be most healing or helpful to you at this time in your life?

Perhaps it is time to take a leap of faith? Or, perhaps you need to take a small step first? From a place of grace, knowing you do not have to do it all at once, what next step does your spirit long to take? Who might support you as you take this next step?

Likewise, where do you sense your spirit inviting you to be ok with not being perfect? What is a waste of energy? What is an unrealistic expectation? What might need attention, but not right now?

“Whatever the question, the answer is Grace.”

Your partner in hope and healing,

Chris . . . and Harvey!

 

Blog: Media review for hope and healing: I Am Enough by Grace Byers

You are enough — tell the children, remind yourself

by Terri Mork Speirs, director of community relations

February 2021 — When I was 50-something years old I read a line in a poem that changed my life. The first seven words in Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese reads: “You do not have to be good.”

This book serves children and families served through the Center’s C.O.O.L., with thanks to the BWA Foundation

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to be good.

I’m sure I’d been taught in many ways from many people including teachers, family and friends. Yet that line in that poem finally convinced me in my sixth decade of life. I need reminders.

And so now I notice such lines when they happen by me for example:

  • Wherever I am, I am what is missing. ~ Mark Strand (posted as a reminder on my phone)
  • I’m imperfect and I’m enough. ~ Brené Brown (I’m all in for Brené Brown)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ~ Maya Angelo (my response: because it can! and: good book)

I think words and books have the power to heal.

As part of the community relations team at the Center, it is my privilege to engage with generous community members, and learn from esteemed colleagues. I get to help ask for donations and thank donors. And, I get to learn how the clinicians utilize the resources. It is especially fun discovering resources used for the kiddos served through C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles in Life).

“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers is one of the recent purchases by our C.O.O.L. clinicians, with thanks to generous funding from the BWA Foundation. The book is used in telehealth sessions with children and families, and has been added to the Center’s lending library. (We hold the hope for a post-pandemic world when we can all access the lending library again!)

The book cover stood out to me for being so very cute, in addition to the wisdom of the title. And how awesome to teach “I am enough” to young ones, and to remind us old ones. 🙂

The video reading by the author, Grace Byers, is delightful.

You do not have to be good. You are enough. Repeat.

Billie’s blog: February 2021

An invitation to sit with your discomfort, allow it to speak to you

Billie Wade, writer

by Billie Wade, PrairieFire graduate

February 2021 – This post heralds a new dawn: addressing the cold, hard reality of racism. I use the term “dawn” to signify the raw truth that for over four hundred years, we remain at the gate of facing and reckoning with racism. Racism, fueled by hate, greed, and fear, is firmly entrenched in our country’s DNA like the pink stain in a plastic refrigerator dish after the spaghetti sauce is removed. We begin where we are, which is always a new place even if we have had a similar experience in the past. Our feelings are cumulative. It is how wisdom is earned.

Since July 2017, I have enjoyed the honor and privilege to share with you a variety of topics and my experience and perspective. As a Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center client for many years, I feel the mission, vision, and values in the environment every time I enter the doors. Now with our interactions on Zoom, those tenets continue to shine through. The Center seeks to understand the clients they serve, and to reach out to underserved demographics. With that said, I now turn my focus to the insidious organism of racism and the trauma of intergenerational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that remains alive and thriving in 2021.

On May 30, 2020, in response to the brutal, flaunting murder of George Floyd and the attack that murdered Breonna Taylor, the Center put voice to their compassion and solidarity with the Black community. The antiracism statement on the landing page of the website announced formation of the Antiracism Learning Group*. I am delighted and humbled to cofacilitate the group with Terri Speirs, the Center’s director of community relations.

I will use several terms often in my writing. My working definitions are:

  • Racism—a system consisting of rules, laws, policies, and practices designed to disenfranchise nonwhite people. The organism systematically perpetuates the unfounded belief that Black people are inferior and, therefore, suitable for subjugation and exploitation.
  • “I, we, and Black people”—descendants of slaves brought to this country in 1619.
  • “White people”—the collective of members of the privileged race in the United States.
  • White privilege—perks given to White people because of the color of their skin.
  • Appropriation—the use by one culture of the accoutrements of another culture, particularly while forbidding the appropriated culture to enjoy those accoutrements.

Racism began when White people laid eyes on native Africans and deemed them nonhuman. They kidnapped the people and brought them to this country stripped of everything—clothing, dignity, rituals, language, spirituality, family, friends, culture, all human rights—in chains stacked like ears of corn in the holds of cargo ships. Those who died were unceremoniously thrown overboard. Upon arrival in America, families were separated, never to see each other again.

Black people face a plethora of stressors every minute of every day. We are hated, hunted, and profiled. We live in a country where Black and Brown bodies are killed on suspicion of criminality by walking on a street with our hands in our pockets. Where a “routine” traffic stop may end our life. Where laws and policies directed at oppressing us are enacted without our knowledge and input. Policies and laws enacted to support and liberate Black people are swiftly met with counter laws that cancel out the advancement. Case in point: The so-called “war on drugs” is a war on Black people. The drug war is waged only in Black communities. The shop owner called police because he suspected George Floyd may have been attempting to pass a counterfeit $20.00 bill. Why did the situation call for four officers?

The medical and mental health fields acted with remarkable swiftness to address the opioid crisis. Middle- and upper-class White women comprised the largest demographic. They were offered treatment, mental health services, and resources. Their plight was blamed on a highly addictive drug. Black people who are addicted to drugs are labeled criminals (because they are in possession of the drug), drug addicts, and morally deficient.

Some of the material may be hard for you to receive. I encourage you to try to sit with your feelings and discomfort and allow them to speak to you. The discomfort is there for a reason. “What belief is this revelation rubbing up against?” The most potent question to ask yourself is, “How can I see this differently?” If you have a spiritual aspect in your life, you can ask that Power to help you see differently. Once we know something, we can no longer ignore its existence. Then, we bump into the question, “What can I do? I’m but one person and the landscape of racism is enormous.” This appeal is not easily answered. I hope to offer you resources you can explore.

Black people in the United States exist as a “gray” caricature of two disparate societies with clashing ideals and rules. The White collective expects us to adhere to their established cultural norms but to never make the mistake of forgetting our “place” on the human hierarchy—on the sidewalk leading to the ladder, not even close.

I have spent my life trying to maintain balance between the worlds of the Black collective and the White collective. Black people accuse me of imitating White people, of trying to be White. On the other hand, White people see me as friendly and intelligent—and Black. I have been denied raises, promotions, job flexibility to return to school, and subjected to blatant lies.

Everything I share does not apply to all people in every situation. Humans are hardwired with their own set of idiosyncrasies, perspectives, and ways of receiving new information, derived from experience. I make no attempt to address all White people as racist nor all Black people into a single category. With that said, I hope you use discernment to consider the statements I offer and examine your beliefs rather than dismissing a point as “it doesn’t apply to me.”

Much has happened during the past nine months—giant corporations drafted public antiracism statements and policies and enacted procedures to follow through; ordinary citizens created book clubs and discussion groups; people backed “Black Lives Matter” with yard signs, sweaters, and other wearables; churches hung banners on their exterior walls to declare their solidarity; we elected Kamala Harris, the first female, nonwhite vice president of the United States. Black people do have allies who sincerely offer compassion and generosity of time, energy, and resources. People who listen to us, really try to hear what we are not saying as well as what we do say.

We need White people to take the time to ask what we need. We need White people to become sensitive to the intergenerational effects of PTSD. Yes, we desperately need equal opportunities for and access to education, employment, housing, medical and mental healthcare, political and governmental participation and representation, and beneficial networks. We cannot attain these human rights and privileges without help. The media exposes us to the symptoms rather than the disease. As such, I commend all of you, and everyone on the front lines of supporting Black people. Please know you are appreciated.

There remains much to do to address more than four hundred years of racism. While we can view the glimmer of hope, to exhale and say we have arrived is a mistake. A quick fix does not exist. White supremacists push back to maintain the oppression and marginalization. They wait in the background ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

Over the next month, I challenge you to the following exercise:

  • What do I believe about Black people—not what you want to believe? Write your answers in a notebook to get them out in front of you, out into the open, where you can see them in stark reality.
  • How did I arrive at those beliefs?
  • What proof do I have as the validity of those beliefs?
  • You need share your responses as you feel comfortable. I do not recommend doing so if you feel unsafe.

May your days, weeks, and months unfold in health, safety, joy, and peace.

More from Billie’s blog: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

*If you are interested in joining the anti-racism learning group, please email tspeirs@dmpcc.org

Group Therapy: Understanding the Needs of Women Experiencing Divorce (UNWED)

UNWED program information:

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This psychotherapy group will consist of 8-10 women experiencing divorce, separation, or break up of a long term relationship. We will support each other and with the use of mindfulness and meditation practices, gain better self-awareness, accept our freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. We will also incorporate narrative therapy which centers on how a problem has been disrupting, dominating, or discouraging a person.

UNWED group therapy details:

Date and time: Mondays, 5 pm to 6:30 pm beginning March 8, 2021.

Format: Meetings will be held through Zoom

Cost: $20 per session, per person

How to participate: Interested participants are asked to apply and interview with a co-facilitator, Ann Flood, t.L.M.C.H. Please send an email to aflood@dmpcc.org with the following details:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone
  • Previous counseling experience
  • Timing of divorce or separation

Co-facilitators: Ann Flood, t.L.M.H.C. and Staci Fosenberg, Ph.D., licensed psychologist

Ann Flood, t.L.M.H.C.

Ann Flood, t.L.M.H.C. is temporary Licensed Mental Health Counselor at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. She has participated and taken training in group therapy with Carlos Canales, Vida Psychotherapy.

Ann works with adolescents, adults, couples and now group therapy using an integrative approach.  She has been trained in EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing),, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy, and is now beginning a two year program to gain certification to teach mindfulness and meditation through MMTCP (Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Training with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield).

Heidi Bowden, L.I.S.W.

Heidi Bowden, L.I.S.W., is a licensed independent social worker. She earned her undergraduate degree in social work from the University of Northern Iowa and her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Iowa. She is trained in E.M.D.R. (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). Heidi works with adults to resolve issues with life and transitions, relationship, traumatic life events, complex trauma, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. She is also a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) in the state of Iowa.

Billie’s blog: Celebrate What’s Important in 2021: You!

by Billie Wade

January 2021 — I recall attaining a major goal and the urge to run into the street screaming and flailing my arms. Fortunately, reality tapped me on the shoulder immediately. Achievement feels good and even more so when someone acknowledges our effort. Recognition gives us the energy and enthusiasm of boosted self-confidence for the next step of the journey. And away we go, having lunged into our goal or milestone, we are off to the next without so much as checking to see if our shoelaces are still tied. Over time we wear down, feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and ineffective. The “new and exciting” activities of going after our vision become tedious chores. We ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? It’s all so pointless. Nobody else will even care.” Mistakes, inevitable though they are, become shrouds of failure. When we live with one or more mental health diagnoses, both the pleasant and the unpleasant of successful living may bat us back and forth like a ping pong ball. One way to help ease the anxiety and balance our experiences is self-celebration.

Self-celebration gets you off the gerbil wheel for a while. You exhale the tension of focused striving. You catch your breath and let it come naturally. You inhale the next breath for strength to grab the baton and begin the next leg of the journey. With that new, raw energy comes increased belief in yourself and what you are setting out to do. When you celebrate yourself—who you are, what you have endured, your achievements, and what you have overcome—you make a profound statement to yourself that you are valuable unconditionally because of your existence. Celebration sets you up for an amazing range of feelings and physical responses. Joy. Delight. Awe. Wonder. Giggles. Laughter. Grins. Smirks. Amusement. And even eye rolling. People who are particularly body-sensitive may feel their body “laughing or singing, or other sensations.”

Self-celebration makes you your Number One Fan. You are a priceless synergy of traits, skills, and wisdom. Your unique quirkiness makes you who you are. You enrich the world with all you do. When you are joyful, you infuse your life with magnetic cheer, and you spread it to those around you. Joy is free. Joy is contagious. Joy is an expression of profound gratitude. Abilities are common in three forms: innate, learned through deliberate study, and acquired through experience—think of the wisdom and insight you have gained in the School of Life. Ironically, your most emotionally painful experiences contain the richest wisdom. They illuminate your courage, resourcefulness, and resilience, Celebrate them.

Early on in self-celebration you may worry about sounding arrogant and unappreciative. You may have learned, as I did, at a young age bragging is a bad practice to start, so bad you could get “the look” or dispatched upstairs to clean your room. However, when you embark on a new endeavor which requires the approval of others, you receive a set of “have tos. ”You have to sell yourself. You have to toot your own horn. You have to convince ‘them’ you are the best.” These instructions, while meant to encourage you, can confuse you about when you can be proud of yourself and when it is not a good idea.

When sharing your good news invite others in by leading with your feelings, such as, “I have great news to share with you,” or “I am so happy. I can hardly wait to tell you…” or “I did it! I finally made it. ”Share the spotlight if someone helped you. Consider the people you trust. You may need to share with different people in a revved up or subdued manner. If your sister is your number one fan, pour on the exuberance. If your neighbor frowns on everything you do, approach sharing the news with a little caution, if telling the person is necessary.

So, what do you do? First, remember you are the ONLY person with you 24/7. So, you are the only person who truly knows the intensity of your efforts. Waiting for someone else to congratulate you may take a long time, or not come at all. While this can be hurtful, you can celebrate yourself and even invite others to join you. Get ready for self-celebration by engaging a conscious awareness of activities you enjoy and/or do well and your achievements. I have a running list of my accomplishments to which I add as needed. The notebook pages are made from stone paper—that’s right, paper made from stone! I titled the notebook “Etched in Stone” to help me remember my ability to contribute to my dreams and to the world in which I live. Self-celebration is a gift to yourself you can enjoy regardless of the presence of others.

Sometimes, you may have to shut down the critical voices yammering at you whether the person(s) is(are) sitting in the same room with you or the voice is from a memory. If self-celebration is daunting for you, talk to someone you trust—therapist, primary care provider, religious leader, spiritual director, friend, or family member. Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is here for you. Clinicians offering a vast array of support and guidance welcome you. To begin your journey toward healing, click here. See my article, “How To Choose A Therapist” (August, 2020)

I usually emphasize that a fancy journal is unnecessary. For self-celebration, however, I encourage you to find a journal that makes you smile and want to snuggle or that makes you feel powerful. It does not matter if you purchase your journal at a dollar store or at a bookstore in the mall. Or, if you are crafty, create a journal and embellish the cover and give your journal a name or title. The importance is in how the journal makes you feel each time you write. Stock up on colorful ink pens, pencils, and highlighters, and glitter. Use whatever color fits your mood at the time or color-code your entries.

Several years ago, I bought a charming journal based entirely on its visual appeal: a top-down image of a dragonfly set against a multi-color background. The nubby-textured brown-gray cover welcomed the dragonfly in without swallowing it. I liked the satiny feel of the muted green-grey pages, with a dragonfly in an upper corner of each page, perfect for brown ink. If you have not tried brown ink, I encourage you to do so. The journal lay in a drawer with other to-be-used-one-of-these-days companions while I waited for the “perfect” theme, that moment of worthiness of such a delightful book.

On June 9, 2020, I wrote the first entry: to dedicate my Dragonfly Journal to my emotional health and evolution. I claimed my dignity as a human being, proud of my abilities, innate as well as learned. I declared my intention to write only good stuff—Gifts of the Day, affirmations, mantras. Envision gratitude on steroids with lots of friends. All entries are positive words. Such as, “I safely arrived to and from all my destinations today,” rather than, “I didn’t have any traffic or shopping problems.” This was a bit tricky at first. The exercise helped me redefine my experiences and self-messages. I had to create a new vocabulary.

Here are some tips for Celebrating Wonderful You every day.

  • Use your celebration journal ONLY for the good stuff—unexpected acts of generosity, great parking spaces, getting home fifteen minutes before the thunderstorm rumbled overhead, a medical appointment with good news. Use your regular journal for working through experiences, problem-solving, and exploring your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
  • Write a list of everything you do well or love doing—from “I like the way I fold bath towels to I am an accomplished, respected astrophysicist with twenty years of experience”. Or, perhaps, you were present for a friend or completed an intense training. Be sure to number them so you can see the magnitude of your achievements, in quality as well as quantity.
  • Pause at least ten seconds between each item—set a timer if necessary—and sink into the pleasure of the moment.
  • Write just enough description that you will fully recall the experience when you reread the entry.
  • Each day, write at least one entry that expresses a minimum of five Gifts of the Day–more powerful than “Things I’m grateful for.” You will have so many Gifts on some days, remembering them all will be a challenge. That’s a good thing, a very good thing. Carry a small notebook with you always.
  • Use your social media or videoconferencing platform if you deem it appropriate.
  • If you have a videoconferencing account open a meeting and host a one-on-one session with yourself, with or without the video feature on.
  • Celebrate yourself as often as you want, anytime, anywhere. You do not have to say a word out loud, but I encourage you to do so. Hearing praise directed at you in your own voice can be quite powerful. Record it on your phone or computer and replay it whenever you need a boost
  • Celebrate your achievement repeatedly for as long as you like—just a smile is a celebration, an affirmation, a statement of enjoyment, about yourself. Sometimes, an inner smile is all you need.
  • Apply the wisdom of reaching your goal to the rest of your life.
  • Revisit your entries when you need a boost of confidence and say, “Wow, I rock!”

We continually seek meaning and fulfillment from our experiences. The achieving can sometimes overshadow the achievement. When we take time to be mindful and appreciative of the journey on our way to the destination, we invite meaning and fulfillment into the doing, which slows down the frenetic pace and sets us on a path of discovery as we achieve. In this respect, the journey is the goal as much as the destination. We do not have to be shy or embarrassed about who we are and what we do to live our life in fullness and contribute to the world in which we live, whatever that looks like for each of us.

Achieve. Enjoy. Celebrate. Repeat.

Billie’s blog index: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

Media Release — Announcing 2021 Event Headliners

Angela Connolly and Tiffany Johnson will headline the 23rd annual fundraiser for the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Media contact: Terri Mork Speirs, Director of Community Relations, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, tspeirs@dmpcc.org, 515-770-5155

2021 Honoree: Supervisor Angela Connolly, Polk County Supervisor

January 12, 2021 – The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is thrilled to announce a dynamic lineup of featured guests and co-chairs for the 23rd Annual Women Helping Women event. They, along with a fearless volunteer planning committee, will inspire the community to engage 500 guests and raise $210,000. Funds will support mental health counseling, education, trainings and other services that impact women, children and families who are uninsured or underinsured. Scheduled for May 21, 2021, the event will be presented live online through CLE Productions.

Honoree: Angela Connolly ~ influential, effective, visionary, and beloved community leader

In her role as a Polk County Supervisor, and as a mother, Angela Connolly is a longtime supporter of mental health access, and a champion for women, children and families. Her distinctive leadership and tremendous impact are demonstrated by her many community awards including induction into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016.

2021 Speaker: Tiffany Johnson, Producing Artistic Director, Pyramid Theatre Company of Des Moines

Speaker: Tiffany Johnson ~ award winning actor, director, teacher, and change-agent

Described as brilliant and captivating by her peers, Tiffany Johnson is passionate about our community. As producing artistic director and founding member of Pyramid Theatre Company, illuminating Black artists and diverse artistic expression, Tiffany is positioned to speak on the power of storytelling as a force for greater understanding, and uplift the worth of mental health access.

2021 Co-Chairs: Carol Bodensteiner, Renee Hardman, Emily Kessinger

The 30-member volunteer planning committee is led by a superstar team of co-chairs who each bring their own stamp of leadership and commitment to mental health access:

  • Carol Bodensteiner – public relations professional and author of numerous books including Simple Truth, a novel set in an Iowa meatpacking plant that asks complex social and moral questions
  • Renee Hardman – CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, first elected African American Councilwoman in West Des Moines, inducted into the Iowa Women of Hall of Fame in 2020
  • Emily Kessinger – Director of Capital Crossroads, founder of Yellow Door DSM, founding partner at Flag of Des Moines, board member of the After School Arts Program (ASAP)

Carol Bodensteiner

Renee Hardman

Emily Kessinger

“I am proud to work with this bold group of women who assert their authority to care for others,” said Laurie Betts Sloterdyk, director of development at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. “The Women Helping Women event will be a healing balm for all who participate on May 21, and for vulnerable women, children and families who will benefit throughout the year.”

Since 1999, the annual event has raised more than $1.4 million for women who experience violence, poverty, trauma, depression, anxiety, abuse and other issues that can be addressed through counseling, psychiatry, self-discovery, and education.

The Center is one of few providers in Greater Des Moines who serve people from all income levels, including those from low-income households who are underinsured or uninsured – with thanks to generous community support.

For more information about Women Helping Women, or to reserve your seat early through a Leader gift or a sponsorship, please go to www.dmpcc.org/whw. Or contact Laurie Betts Sloterdyk at 515-564-5122

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The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit organization with a mission to walk with people through counseling and education to find hope and healing, and live a fulfilling life. Annually, the Center serves more than 4,000 individuals (including nearly 700 children and adolescents plus their families), offering holistic mental health counseling and education through 30 multidisciplinary clinicians. The Center is one of few providers in Central Iowa who serve those who are uninsured or underinsured.

2021 Women Helping Women home page

The Scandal of Particularity    

I can still remember the first lecture of the first class I ever took at Duke Divinity School.  Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, In a very proper and professorial British accent lectured on “the scandal of particularity.”

You might ask, “What is ‘the scandal of particularity?’”. . . go on. . . ask. . . please. . .

 

(sigh). . . no one ever asks.

Well, Dr. Wainwright and I would like you to know anyway. “The scandal of particularity” is all of the messy challenges that come about when followers of Jesus say that the God of all creation, “The Ground and Source of all Being,” was also somehow mysteriously embodied in a vulnerable baby who pooped his diapers.

Ok, it is a bit more complicated than this, but this is one of the most “scandalous” parts and this is the time of the year when followers of Jesus begin to tell this first story in the first chapter of The Scandal of Particularity.

There are some other good parts too. There are lots of parts where Jesus pisses off good church people by saying the people they thought were doomed to Hell were going to be first in heaven.  There are parts where people who think they don’t matter and have very little power become center stage and examples of great love.  There is a very sad part where Jesus, after pissing off too many politically powerful people, because of all of that stuff I just talked about, is executed as a violent revolutionary.  Then, his inner circle of followers loses all hope and run for their lives.  Until, in the midst of their fear he returns to them in a new kind of body in some new and mysterious way giving them the courage to risk their lives as the “scandal of particularity” somehow, mysteriously lives and continues in them.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a part of this “scandal of particularity.” I am a follower of Jesus. I was baptized and raised in a United Methodist Church in South Mississippi. I have been loved and shaped by people from this tradition and those experiences have shaped me in profoundly positive and meaningful ways. None of these experiences or relationships are general.  They are all particular.  This is who I am, and I cannot talk about “faith” “meaning” “love” or “spirituality” without this particularity being a part of that conversation. Even if I do not explicitly say it, this particularity is there.

I believe that at the heart of all of the mysterious, yet very real, experience of spirituality is deep relationship.  I also believe everyone is spiritual, whether or not they choose to use that language or not.  To grow spiritually is to grow in relationship.

Growing in relationship is inherently a practice of vulnerability.  I only have one honest self to offer you and, if it is an honest self, it is also a “particular” self. If you reject it I do not have another authentic self to offer you.

I also know that my particular tradition of faith is not perfect.  Christians, including me, do not and have not always acted like Jesus.  Worse yet, sometimes we have not even recognized and repented of it. Sadly, I and others in my faith tradition, have sometimes turned “the scandal of particularity” into “the scandal of exclusion”.

However, “The scandal of particularity,” is really about God’s inclusion of all people. It begins with a story of angels proclaiming Good News to “all people” and a story of Persian astrologers welcomed into the home of the holy family as some of their first guests.  There is no indication that they ever changed their religion before or after returning home.

I deeply value my particular experience in the United Methodist Church. I believe God was and is at work in if for good in me and in the world.  However, Jesus did not invite people to become “United Methodists” or even “Christians” he invited people to become beautifully human.  The first followers of Jesus were simply called followers of “The Way.”

You and I each have our own “scandal of particularity”. We all come from and speak from a particular experience of faith. Maybe yours has a formal name, worldview, and rituals.  Maybe it does not. Maybe you are still trying to figure out your own relationship with your religious tradition. Maybe you have no desire to be a part of a formal religious tradition.  Maybe you do not believe in God.

Still you, like me, live by faith. You, like me, live as if some things are more true and more real than others. You, like me, are more than just the sum of your biological parts, and you, like me, cannot ultimately test or prove the kind of things that give life its ultimate meaning. We are all a part of the same mystery of being. However, we all live in this mystery in “particular” ways.  While we may be able to talk about spirituality “in general,” we all live into our spirituality “in particular.”

I get very bored with conversations about spirituality in general.  Of course, if I have to choose between religious strife and religious tolerance, I will choose tolerance every time. However, I believe most of us long for something much more meaningful.

In my own experience, the kinds of conversations that have most transformed me in life giving ways, are those in which someone has trusted me with their own “scandal of particularity” while also allowing me to share my own. These are always sacred conversations and I often leave such conversations with a deeper since of connection and care for that person.

As Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, I want to foster such conversations. I also want to model this in my own conversations with others. This blog is one such conversation. Often I will be speaking from my own particular religious tradition. As I mentioned earlier, even if I do not specifically allude to it, I am sure it will be there.  It is a fundamental part of what makes me who I am.          I find this tradition rational, inspiring, and compelling. It is the best way I know to become the person I was created to be.

At the same time, I expect that anyone who has thoughtfully chosen another worldview or religious tradition, has also done so for similar reasons. So, we all have our own “scandal of particularity.”  Because of this we often try to avoid the topic of religion. We may fear that the conversation will end in argument and division and, sometimes, it does.  However, I have found that when there is trust and respect and the goal is understanding and not to “convert,” some of the most sacred conversations that I have ever had have happened when someone has trusted me with their own “scandal of particularity” and also given me the gift of understanding mine.

Your partner in hope and healing,

Chris

To read more of Chris Waddle’s blogs, click HERE.

Media review for hope and healing #1

The Heart Hunger for Wildness by Diane Glass

reviewed by Terri Mork Speirs, Director of Community Relations

I am a believer that storytelling is a powerful path to hope and healing. Stories remind us that we are not alone in our joy and pain, whatever they are.  I am pleased to offer thoughts on what I call a genre-bending book that blends poetry and memoir — reflections on one’s life in lyrical form. In this sleek new book of poems, author Diane Glass shares her life’s perspectives that are deeply unique to her yet universal to all of us. (For many years Diane has served instructor for the Center’s PrairieFire program.)

One of the many things I love about this slim volume is the clever ordering of chapters that clusters the poems into three themes: hunger, heart, wildness. And how the themes circle and flow within the chapters, and page to page. Her subjects range from the simple to the simply unimaginable. Her verses call us to pay attention, sometimes with proposed solutions placed cleverly in plain sight right before us. As if that’s how it works in the real world.

For example the last line on page 26 asks: “How do you want to live?”

The first line on page 27 seems to offer the perfect answer: “Curiosity.”

Ah, curiosity, what an antidote to pandemic and quarantine. But how to cultivate it when it can be hard to simply think? As one with self diagnosed covid-brain (extra short attention span), I like the white space poetry offers. I like the choices of short or shorter reads. I like the puzzle-like experience of reading out of order, and not worrying if I don’t immediately understand. I like being amazed when I do. I like that knowing that sometimes chaos can turn to order. And most times, it’s OK to just sit with the chaos.

Throughout the book, the author’s vivid imagery is at once lyrical and arresting, such as: “Take care of my plant, my stepson wrote in careful script in his suicide letter on the kitchen table of his apartment.” (p. 48) The four poems related to this line are like chapter-ettes of the full poem entitled “The Botany of Grief.” It is an exploration of suicide loss in plain words. The series of poems stunned me for both the beauty and sadness. How can there be both at the same time?

Her poems seek to make sense out of the nonsensical. Suicide. Illness. Racism. Divorce. While somehow weaving in the joy. Nature. Dancing. Wonder. New love.

You can read when you can. You can read one page. You can read ten pages. Put it by your favorite chair and pick it up a week later. You can remember that you are not alone.

Give the book to yourself, or to someone you love.

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Diane Glass, author and PrairieFire instructor

Diane Glass brings a writer’s astute attention to detail and a spiritual director’s ability to probe the depths of meaning in everyday experience in her new book of poetry, The Heart Hungers for Wildness.

From the power of soup to change the world to the land’s willingness to talk with us if we listen, her poems testify to the joy of following the heart’s wild longings.

Along the way, she shares sorrows as well—losing a stepson, facing illness, living out the pandemic. You will come to better understand your own life passages and possibilities after reading this book.

Available at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.