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Today is election day.  It feels as if it is so much more.

God gifted humanity some of the most beautiful places in the galaxy.  We have a planet that is filled with such breathtaking reminders of his love for us that these scenes have inspired some of the most wonderful works of art.  I am in awe when I think of the majesty of our world and its beauty.  We were gifted this planet and all that is in it.  Are we taking good care of it?  We were charged with its care and survival.  “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke12:48)

In our world, we do not always understand our neighbors.  It is often times hard for us to embrace the differences we see. Yet these differences are what can bring such depth of color that heightens the beauty of this earth and our lives here.  As a student of human behavior and thoughts, I am constantly humbled by the glorious wonder of the human being, especially the human mind.  It is as if we have a galaxy in our brain. So much that is unknown and so much yet to explore and learn.  When we understand our limits and humble our ego to embrace the differences that our neighbors possess, our lives become enriched.  There is a reason God told us to love our neighbors.  We can learn so much from them and we become our best selves when we do. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-31)

So often, we become afraid of what we do not understand.  Rather than trying to understand, we run away or build walls where bridges need to be erected.  We are afraid of things that we do not know.  We are so afraid!  Yet, God reassures us to not hold on to our fear.  He has our backs.  He is always with us.  Why do you think there are 365 reminders to not be afraid in the Bible?  God knows we will be afraid so he gave us a reminder for every day of the year.  When we are afraid we should put our trust solely in God, not in man. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3) 

Instead of being afraid, what if we were to simply love our neighbors by serving them?  Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all more interested in serving rather than fearing?  Christ clearly taught the importance of becoming a servant.  He led by example.  Throughout his teachings we are reminded of the importance of serving and giving, especially to those who are in need.  Love is not just a feeling.  It is an action word and we are called to love unconditionally and totally.  When presented with a neighbor’s need, a Christian needs to meet that need and share.  Nothing on this earth belongs to any person.  It is all God’s.  We are simple stewards of the gifts we’ve been given and we are called upon to give and to share as God has with us.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Today is Election Day.  Many are going to the polls in fear.  They are fearful that they may have to give up something they own to someone else.  They are fearful that someone might get something for free.  They are fearful that by thinking of the greater good, they may loose out on what they want or feel they deserve.  They are fearful that if they don’t build walls to keep people away from their things that these things may disappear and they will not have as much.  They are fearful of what they do not understand. 

I challenge everyone to look beyond their fear and to trust God.  He has always had great instructions and answers to every problem we could face.  He has instructed us to love him and each other.  That is all he really asks of us.  If we stand up to fear and replace it with love, we will be honoring him best.  I for one, would rather error on the side of love.  We are to love, because he loved us first.  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Today is election day.  A day of responsibility for an American citizen.  We are to vote for political leaders we believe will fulfill God’s desires best.  Not the leaders who will give me the most or allow me to have more.  But rather those leaders who will stand for all people with compassion, care, integrity and honesty.  We can honor God today with our vote by praying that our hearts are filled with love rather than fear.  We can pray that we honor God with love for him and our neighbors.  My vote isn’t about me.  My vote is about my neighbors, my country and my planet.  I want political leaders who care more about the greater good than just me.  My vote will go to those leaders in whom I see love in action.

I challenge you to love…then go vote!

Posted in Love.

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A Lesson About Sexual Assault Survival

The recent exchanges regarding the sexual assault scandal surrounding our Supreme Court nominee have stirred a lot of passion in my heart.  I am struck by how many politicians haven’t a clue what is going on.  Or, maybe it is that they just don’t care.  Either way, I need to try and bring attention to facts surrounding sexual assault survival.

Why don’t assault victims come forward sooner to confront their assailant?  Are you kidding!?

Let’s just start with the obvious, shall we?  If a victim of assault dares to stand up to an assailant with any sort of power, she (or he) risks her life coming under scrutiny like no other.  For a person dealing with the shame (that is always present) after being assaulted, is so difficult.  To then have to be exposed to shaming by people accusing her/him of “asking for it” or “making it up” or “being confused as to what really happened” is called, re-traumatization.  It is a real thing.  It happens every day.  Why would anyone knowingly expose themselves to further trauma reliving what happened so many years ago.

Which brings me to my next point – the time it takes to regain personal power.  This point is one that is especially infuriating to me.  When someone is assaulted, it takes away that person’s sense of personal power.  Their voice has been taken away.

Please understand that assault’s overall message is, “You are not valuable as a person.  You have so little value, that I can do whatever I want to you.  I can take whatever I want from you and if you say, ‘No’ there will be hell to pay.  So…shut up, don’t say anything and just do what I want you to do.”  That is what every person who is victimized feels. “I am not worth treating like a human being.”

So, with that belief now firmly implanted in a person’s mind, why in the world would anyone expect the subject of assault to stand up and say “Yes, yesterday this guy assaulted me.” (I use “guy” because the vast majority of assailants are male.)  A person who has been victimized always feels shame and as if they are less than.  They do not believe that anyone will believe them. They do not believe that anyone will care.  How in the world can anyone expect them to stand up immediately to face their assailant – if ever?

Which leads me to another point.  Unless you are the survivor of assault or you work with victims of assault, shut up! You don’t have a clue nor do you have a right to have an opinion about when or how he/she should report the assault. Did you know that most people victimized by an entitled jerk do not have the courage or self-power regained until years later to speak about the assault – even to a therapist.  It is quite common for women (and men) to be in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s before they can talk about what occurred?  Did you know that?  Then shut up!  You don’t get to have an opinion on how it should be reported!  You do not have a right to judge!  You really don’t know what you are talking about.

Ahhh…judgement!  The next point that infuriates me – so many feel they are judge and jury about a person victimized by another.  The entitled always believe that this ugly story of assault is uncomfortable or is getting in the way of their agenda, so they start minimizing the reality of what has happened.  “Well, she must be confused.”  “Too much time has passed, she can’t remember.”  “She doesn’t remember all the details so it must not be the truth.”

Speaking of that, let’s talk about trauma and memory.  The entitled are spending so much time saying that because she doesn’t remember many of the details,  it must be a made up story.  Again – shut up!  You sound like an idiot!  Please take 5 minutes and learn about memory and trauma.  Did you know that professionals who deal with trauma understand that when there are blocks of details that are missing, that the story is more than likely true.  When a person is assaulted, the brain goes into survival mode – also known as fight-or-flight.  During this state, our capacity to remember all details is severely challenged.  People don’t remember everything.  So stop saying that details are missing or fuzzy.  Or if you recognize that, please understand that this brings credibility to the person’s story, not discredit.

As a professional who works with trauma recovery every day, I am infuriated at the harm that this kind of rhetoric does to anyone who has been assaulted.  Those of you who are saying that Dr. Ford has to testify on Monday or we won’t hear her, do not understand trauma survival and talking about it.  Why are you not calling upon some professionals who do understand trauma recovery and how it works.  Why don’t you?  Oh! You really don’t care!

Which brings me to my final point.  When as a nation we elect a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, it should be no surprised that the party in power doesn’t want to hear about sexual assault.  Too many people in this country don’t care about it and too many people live in the denial that it exists and happens every day!  It is time to change this lack of concern.  It is time that we regain a position of compassion and care. It is time that we regain everything we have lost in the form of human rights over the past two years.  It is time we stand in opposition and vote on November 6th.

I am tired of “alternative facts” running the political and social agenda.  I am tired of having people of color, women, children…treated as less than.  We are all God’s children and we are all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…without fear of discrimination, humiliation, ridicule. It is time we come together in love again!

Posted in Abuse/Assault Survival.

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Caring For Our Aging Parents Without Tearing Up The Family

I have a number of clients right now who are dealing with aging parent issues. Let’s be honest – it isn’t an easy time. On the contrary, it is quite difficult. There are a lot of things that need to be done and a lot of decisions to be made. All of this while grieving the losses associated with parents who are aging. It is a time that often tears families apart. It is important for all involved that you try to fight against fighting with your siblings.

I have been reflecting on how my sisters and I are handling things with our parents. I don’t think that we have the magic formula, but I do believe we have developed a rhythm and understanding over the past 8 years with our parents’ health issues. I have noticed we are growing closer together rather than apart. Because of this, I thought it might be beneficial to reflect on what we’ve learned for all people going through a similar time in life.

First, it is important to understand that we need to juggle our parents’ needs with their dignity. They are still our parents, need to be respected and at the same time cared for and considered. Spend time and listen to them while you can. If you are dealing with dementia issues, hopefully you spent time earlier listening to them. What is important to them must be considered, but let’s face it. The primary concern is their health and safety. In some cases, they just are not able to make decisions any more and we have to do it. It is for their welfare and tough love is sometimes needed.

Second, consider your other siblings. Who is primarily responsible for day-to-day concerns and decisions? It is important for all of the other siblings to respect and defer to the decisions of those in charge. In our family my sister, Julie is responsible for day-to-day issues. Since she is there Jodi (my other sister) and I defer to her judgement. Do we do this perfectly – no. But Jodi and I try diligently to support Julie since she is carrying the majority of the responsibility. That is a lot of stress on one person. If we are constantly challenging their judgement, we are only causing them more stress and that is destructive.

Next, be sure you are doing what you can. Besides supporting your sibling who is there, find out in what other ways you can help support your parents. My sister has delegated things to the other two of us as best she can. I am mostly in charge of money issues and also communicating to other family members about how things are going. Jodi is a bright spot in my parents’ days. When she comes to visit, it is play time with her. Living almost 2,000 miles away, Jodi isn’t able to do as much as she would like. It is important for Julie and I to remember the fact that she can’t be with her parents very often is hard on her. It’s just a different kind of stress. However, Jodi also remembers to honor the fact that Julie, and then me next, carry the most responsibility on decisions and daily care. Jodi never criticizes or second guesses our decisions. She listens and loves. That is one of the greatest gifts of support she can give us.

Also, be considerate of where your parents are cognitively. One of the biggest adjustments we’ve had to make – and the most difficult is to understand where are parents are cognitively. The brain is a complicated organ. It is very hard to understand. We have had to adjust how we relate to our parents so as not to cause more discomfort for them. Continuity and consistency are two things that are very important to people as we age. Being flexible is hard and change is really hard on them. Be considerate and educate yourself on where your parents are at with their brain health. There are experts that are educated to do assessments on cognition and memory. Listen to them and learn. There are some awesome resources. Understand how you can be of aid, not a hinderance to their needs.

Finally, pray for guidance and direction and embrace the special moments you are given. If you are anything like my sisters and I, this is a new territory that we are not educated to navigate. It is all new. Because each person is different, it is imperative that we understand that each person needs different things and these things may change with each passing day. We are novices on elder care. We don’t know how to navigate the decline without relying on experts and the wisdom of those who went before us. It can make a difference when we admit we aren’t prepared and count on those who are. This is a journey and you are needed. Be the blessing that your parents invested in all of your childhood years. It can be a very special time of sharing memories with someone who has loved you your entire life. Meet them where they are and cherish what time you have left. And at all times, remember your siblings are grieving, too.

Posted in Grief, Love, Relationships.

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