Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's GOOD to be HERE

I thought the reason I haven't written a blog post in awhile was because of a lack of inspiration. However, the Gospel this past Sunday (Matt 17:1-9) shown light on my current place in life. A quote in that reading is one of my favorite. St. Peter says, "Lord, it is good that we are here." Like most of Scripture, there can be different interpretations. The Word is alive and meets us where we are.

Standing on top of the mountain with Jesus, Peter exclaimed that he was right where he is meant to be. He was then reminded that he had to keep moving and can't stay in the same place forever.
These two points are recognized in many of my sessions with clients and realized in my own journey. I like to understand God as both simple and complex. God is simple in that He is God and we are not. His plan always trumps our own.. always! God is complex in that He invites us to walk alongside of Him as we use our freewill to make choices everyday.

Many people seek therapy because 1) they are not happy about where they are at or 2) don't adjust well to change. "Adjustment disorder" is the most common diagnosis many MFTs use for clients. Clients come in sharing a story of some change in their lives in which they are trying to find the words, "it is good that we are here." Depression and/or anxiety enter our lives when we become restless and want to be anywhere or anyone other than where and who we are. The "should demon" whispers lies about how we're not good enough, pleased enough, loved enough, or successful enough and SHOULD be another way. Telling the demon to back off, we see that God carries us right where we are and loves us for exactly who we are and encourages us to have to the courage to move when we hear His voice.

In my own life there are a number of things for which I'm waiting to fall in place. In reality, I'm not saying, 'it is good to be here' with my full heart at times. I'm saying, 'I want my relationship to be this way, my job to be that way, or my daily routine to be this or that way." A friend recently encouraged me to enjoy this time, because it's what I have right now. Rather than focusing on what God wants, I have been anxious about what I want. My experience of the desert is appropriate for Lent and slows me down to seek humility, quiet, and solitude. One of my favorite images is of Jesus in the desert... just sitting... just praying. It's called "In the Wilderness" by Ron DiCianni. Is Jesus sitting and thinking, "I can't wait go out and teach, be surrounded by mobs of people, exhausted by a job that never ends, to be betrayed, to be crucified?" I don't know that, but I am confident that he saw those 40 days in the desert as sacred moments that he needed to move forward in the days ahead.

Peter directs our focus to Christ every time. As I delve deeper into the mystery of God's love for us, it becomes more clear that our only true purpose is to love God and one another. No matter what your job, money, schedule, etc consists of, it is nothing compared to the greatness of God. We can't take anything to heaven with us. Our mission on earth is to walk with Jesus. God created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. I believe he doesn't say "no" to our prayers, but rather "yes," not yet," or "I have something better." With a God who answers like that, how can we not say, "It is GOOD that we are HERE." Often after a period of waiting, people say, "I wouldn't have changed anything. It was right where I needed to be at the time." After hearing that plenty of times, I find myself reminding myself of that phrase when it's hardest to believe.

The journey up the mountain, the experience on the mountain, the journey down the mountain, and the life of ministry down from the mountain were all good for Peter, James, and John. No matter where Peter was, God was there in His heart preparing him for every step of the way. Once I heard that God doesn't reveal our future to us, because it would make it hard for us to wake up today. God prepares us for one step at a time.

This Lent, I have tried my best to give up my phone in my car. Turning the phone on silent, praying, and only listening to Christian music in the car has transformed the day from endless craziness to having pockets of grace to just be held by God in between appointments, Masses, conversations, study times, applications, etc. Commutes in the car can actually be huge opportunities to breathe, to give thanks, to ask for strength, to pray, or to be quiet.

Sometimes we are bummed by things not happening quick enough or the way we had planned. A client recently told her boyfriend in session that "this wasn't my plan, but now I have a new plan with you in it." We may be bummed about not getting a job we thought we wanted, but then astonished to be available to apply for a much better one for us weeks later. We may be bummed about not being busy enough at times, but then recognize how we are available to care for ourselves and others in that time. We may have a hard time when dreams, expectations, or situations change, but God never abandons us, forgets us, or expects us to do it all on our own. "We can do all things THROUGH Christ who strengthens us." (Phil 4:13)

As it is good to be right where we are, God doesn't like us to be too comfortable. God is on the move and we are invited to be follow closely. We can't grip a moment in time too tightly. When we have mountaintop experiences, we say IT IS GOOD TO BE HERE! A great date, retreat, celebration, and the like make us want to pitch a tent and stay awhile like Peter wanted to stay at the site of the Transfiguration. However, grace never runs out and life moves on. As Bebo Norman sings, "We walk down the mountain with your heart held high/ If you offer up your broken cup, You will taste the meaning of this life."

This Lent do you need Jesus to help you say, "it is GOOD to be HERE?" Do you need Jesus just to hold you in the desert? Is Jesus inviting you to let go and walk down the mountain and find the sacred in the journey? Jesus wants to reveal his glory in every moment, every heart, and every time and place. When we thank God for placing us right where we are, we can find light and joy. According to the dictionary, "transfigure" means "to transform into something more beautiful or elevated." How will Christ transfigure you this Lent?

St. Peter, pray for us!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

When the Wine Runs Short

As a marriage counselor, it’s special to have the first reflection of this blog about a wedding story - Wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-12). Marriage is packed with beauty, mystery, and the meaning of our human hearts and God’s relationship with all of us.

When I heard this beloved story about Jesus' first miracle a couple weeks ago, the theme that particular stood out for me was emptiness. Think about the bride and groom and their families during the reception. They had prepared for this day for quite some time with great anticipation. Near the end of the night, they were watching the wine "run short" before the party was over. Captain Jack Sparrow would say, "Why is the wine always gone?" On a more serious note, I thought about what they were feeling and thinking. I believe they felt embarrassed, overwhelmed, weak, and hopeless…

When have you felt like you’ve lost hope, life, taste in your life? When have you felt exhausted? When have you felt embarrassed that you weren’t who others expected you to be or that you expected yourself to be?

This reflection opened up a new connection I had with this story. I heard it in a possibly new and different way than I had before. I had always focused on the plentiful blessings of marriage, but never focused on the wine shortage. After the family exclaimed the lack of wine, Mary knew who to go to. She went right to her Son with a heart full of urgent faith. Jesus said, “how does your concern affect me?" I believe Jesus doesn’t ask us that question because he is disconnected and has better things to do. It’s rather the opposite. He never forces himself upon us. If we want to do something on our own, He gives us room to try. He asks this question hoping to receive an invitation to help, to heal, to be a savior for us.

“What does this have to do with me?” “Jesus, you are my Lord and my God. Nothing is impossible for you. My (insert hope, life, taste, etc. here) is running dry and I want and need you in my life.” It was then that Jesus took WATER! And turned it into WINE!

My old youth minister Sarah Bauer has a great song about this that’s called “Extraordinary.”
Take my ordinary, like water into wine. Create extraordinary. Transform this life of me. These gifts are yours; use them for your glory. Take me, make me extraordinary.

A another quote recently stood out to me that "God may allow us to hit rock bottom so we can recognize that He is our rock." If the family at the Wedding at Cana never ran out of wine, they would not have the grace to witness Jesus’ first miracle! Water changed into wine in front of their eyes!

As a therapist I have both felt and witnessed this lack of “wine.” Building a practice requires a lot of faith and trust as my work load each week depends on how many clients walk in the door. It’s been a miraculous feeling to watch my schedule fill up with clients after telling God I was ‘running out of wine.’ I’ve seen clients come in the door for the first session and say something similar. They don’t know where else to turn or what to do next. Sometimes just saying that out loud to someone who can really listen invites God to come in and turn your water into wine and make your ordinary extraordinary!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thoughts of a Therapeutic Theologian


My name is Annie and I'm a 27-year-old who has finally completed her academic endeavors (never say never...) after 24 years of being in school. I now hold a Masters in Theology from the Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame and a Masters in Marriage and Family from Indiana Wesleyan University. Since I began studying psychology and theology in undergrad at Saint Mary's College, I knew I wanted to integrate the two. I foresaw this integration happening in practice and reflection. This blog is the beginning of my professional reflections.
As I'm fresh out of school and preparing for the licensure exam, I wanted to continue to share my love for writing and theological reflection in a blog format. I received professional support from my supervisor and spiritual/inspirational support from Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. One of my favorite ways to pray is trying to attend Mass during the week in addition to Sundays. If you attend Mass everyday for 3 years, you can cover the whole Bible! 
As the Christmas season has passed, the Church celebrates Ordinary Time. For most, this sounds like it is not exciting. Who wants to be ordinary? Well the ordinary and routine aspects of life is what fills our schedules each day. 

As an Echo Apprentice working in a parish, I had the opportunity to invite people to find God in the ordinary. As a resident marriage and family therapist, my job is to listen to how people live in the ordinary and help them manage stress, anxiety, and depression that overwhelm them everyday. 

I believe both of these jobs are similar and as a Christian, I believe the jobs are inseparable. I believe that we are made in the image of God and that God became man in Jesus Christ to experience humanity fully and to teach us how to navigate the ups the downs of being human and living in a society with others. Narrative therapy has resonated with me in my work as a therapist. In my final paper to receive my lay ministry certificate in college, I wrote about how I minister through story-telling. I enjoy Thomas Groome’s quote about bringing “faith to life and life to faith.” As a Christian therapist, I want to help people see their story in the Christian story and the Christian story in their story. Sometimes I can do this explicitly and sometimes implicitly just by listening. Everyone has a story to tell and by telling, retelling, externalizing, and re-authoring it, we can find great meaning in our stories. 

In this blog I plan to reflect on how we can connect our personal stories with the stories of the Bible. I’m sure there will also be some miscellaneous reflections as well. Perichoresis is my favorite theological term so it had to fit somewhere in the title of this blog. It is the "divine dance of love within the Trinity." Since my profession will be a dance between therapy and theology, I thought it was a fitting title. I love to dance and I hope you enjoy joining me as you step, twirl, and maybe even dip through this blog. Enjoy and please feel free to comment, share, or contact me. 

If you live near Indianapolis and know someone looking for a counselor who can integrate faith in sessions or can simply respect their faith and spirituality, you can schedule an appointment with me (Anne) at Family Counseling Associates at 317-585-1060 Ext. #3510 or email me at Thanks for any prayers or referrals.