The Best Valentine's Gift: Another Chance

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

Love is a many splendored thing when you’re first dating Mr. or Miss Right, and Valentine’s Day seems to have been invented just for the two of you to celebrate your very special love.

But after a few years of marriage (a few hours in some cases), when Miss Right has turned into “Mrs. Always Right” and Mr. Right has deteriorated into “Mr. Can’t Get it Right” (or vice versa), Valentine’s Day may seem like a trumped-up tradition of forced, and often expensive, displays of affection custom-made for commercialism, hyped-up expectations, and often disappointment.

The gift industry would have us believe that flowers, candy and oversized cards will have us all living happily ever after, but once you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ to disillusionment, the valentine season can seem like a minefield too perilous to cross.

While one spouse may be preparing a gourmet meal to serve with fresh flowers and a big sentimental card, the other spouse may be working late and then frantically driving from one gas station to another hunting for a leftover rose to function as a get-out-of-jail-free card rather than an expression of undying love and devotion.

Approximately one-half of American marriages end in divorce, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Those aren’t reassuring odds. Even marriages made in heaven can get bogged down in the earthly grind. Every married couple can testify to the cyclical nature of the relationship. Like the seasons of the year, marriages go through changes of seasons, and too often it’s the wintery cold and flu season.

This year for Valentine’s Day, perhaps married couples could start a new tradition, and give each other a gift that Hallmark can’t sell, florists can’t stock, and even Fannie May can’t package. This year for Valentine’s Day, try giving your love another chance.

Vow that you will deliberately forgive and forget all the offenses of the previous year, no matter how entitled you feel to hold a grudge. Resolve that you will consciously open your heart to your spouse again and love him or her unconditionally. This will do more for your love life than all the flowers, candy, lingerie and cards in the world.

This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of a big red greeting card, give your spouse a hand-written list of things you love about him or her. Instead of a box of expensive chocolates, present a priceless list of sweet things you appreciate about your spouse. Come up with several ways you will try to change to better meet your spouse’s needs. Ask your spouse what he or she needs from you to be happier in the relationship. Apologize for any outstanding offenses you can recall and promise to do better in the coming year. Seek couples counseling together to help work through any unresolved issues and learn new ways of improving your relationship.

And if you happen to find a gas-station rose on the way home from work, or manage to share a romantic meal together, that probably won’t hurt either.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV).

Blessings to you!

CathyD

M. Catherine (Cathy) Downen, MA, MA, LPC, NCC
Founder, Christian Counseling Connection, LLC

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Forgiving the Unforgivable

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, ESV)

At Christian Counseling Connection, we assist many people who are struggling to find freedom in the aftermath of deep hurts. We help clients cope with the results of living in a fallen world and journey with them on the road to recovery from all types of abuse, addiction, infidelity, poverty, racism, grief, illness, unemployment, and many other kinds of problems. Many times, the inevitable questions arise:

♦ How can I ever forgive?

♦ Does God expect me to forgive even that?

♦ Is it really necessary to forgive?

Every Christian understands the Biblical concept that there is healing in forgiveness, and we’re all thankful that God has forgiven us, but if you’ve ever been seriously sinned against, you know it is not easy to forgive. Jesus was asked how often we must forgive, and His answer was “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18:22, KJV). That’s an appealing sentiment, until you have been personally hurt; really deeply, profoundly, irreversibly wounded by another. Then the reality of forgiveness can seem impossible.

God, in His wisdom, has called us to forgive so that we can be set free. As long as we hold on to unforgiveness, we remain captives of our past hurts. The bitterness in our hearts caused by unforgiveness serves as a conduit that actually keeps us connected to the ones who harmed us. We spend too much time thinking about them, which can result in giving them a large and powerful presence in our lives. No matter how long ago the offense happened, unforgiveness keeps it fresh in our present reality and affects our thoughts and relationships. The power of forgiveness lies in its ability to release us from the bond that holds us captive to our offender, but for many of us, forgiving someone is not an easy process. How can we forgive the unforgivable?

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The Power of Presence ~ We're Here for You

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Here’s a challenge for you:  Google “Here for You lyrics,” and count how many songs come up. You’ll observe a diversity of artists, genres, and eras, but these songs share a similar sentiment: the power of presence makes a huge difference. We seek the company of others to share burdens and joys, express friendship and love, and connect to God in worship. The fundamental human need for connection is real and powerful.

In his 2016 book The Power of the Other, Dr. Henry Cloud points to the experience of Navy Seals in training who are able to perform well beyond their personal capacity because they are strengthened by being part of a team. Positive connection with others enhances many area of our lives and contributes to productivity, wellbeing, and mental health.

Counseling research has repeatedly confirmed that the connection of relationship makes all the difference in the efficacy of therapeutic treatment, even over a wide variety of theories and techniques used by different clinicians. When a client is able connect with a counselor and feel heard and understood, therapeutic progress is likely to follow.

Lisa Firestone Ph.D. explores this concept in her article “The Importance of the Relationship in Therapy: How a strong therapeutic alliance can lead to real change” in Psychology Today, Dec. 22, 2016.

God created us with a need for connection, to Him and to other people. One of the names of Jesus, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Scripture is full of examples of God reaching out to connect to His creation, and people reaching out to others to make a difference in their lives through relationship.

Connection is such a foundational value at Christian Counseling Connection that it is part of our name, and a key motto is “We’re Here for You.” Our counselors are caring people who love God and seek to serve Him by reaching out to those who need someone to walk with them through a difficult time. While all our counselors are state-licensed professionals with multiple degrees, it is their ability to listen and relate well to others that helps them to offer the highest standard of therapeutic care and be effective in their work.

Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. Help is available. Reach out and get started. “We’re Here for You.”

 

Blessings to you!

CathyD

M. Catherine (Cathy) Downen, MA, MA, LPC, NCC
Founder, Christian Counseling Connection, LLC

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Staying Connected to The Vine

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Welcome to The Vine, the official Blog of Christian Counseling Connection, LLC.

The Vine was named through the inspiration of Jesus’s words in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV)

And, yes, Marvin Gaye’s iconic 1968 Motown hit song, later reprised in the 80’s by the California Raisins, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was another inspiration!

The Vine will seek to present information and inspiration, encouragement and exhortation, psychological insights and spiritual truths.

Blog posts will be written by various members of our collaborative group, Christian Counseling Connection, all of whom are professional, licensed counselors in private practice who love God and are on a mission to provide hope and healing in our community.

Our counselors operate from a Christian worldview, but we are also mindful and respectful of the individual values systems and diversity of all clients.

We seek to provide a Center of Excellence for mental health and wellness, using effective, evidence-based therapeutic techniques in an environment of caring and acceptance.

Feel free to check back frequently to see what’s new on The Vine, or click on "Subscribe" to sign up to receive The Vine by email so you don’t miss anything!

“I heard it through the grapevine . . .”

Blessings to you!

CathyD

M. Catherine (Cathy) Downen, MA, MA, LPC, NCC
Founder, Christian Counseling Connection, LLC

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