Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back to School

Well, after four years away from school counseling, I have decided to return.

Yes, I'm keeping my private practice in counseling. I will be reducing the number of clients that I see on a weekly basis in order to work 20 hours a week as a school counselor at Rockford Christian Elementary School.

This comes in the midst of conversations that I have been having with God about desire. In fact, pursuing this position kind of started those conversations.

My good friend Mackenzie, who works in the business office at RCS, told me about the position innocently enough. She wanted me to have the information about the position in case I had any counselor friends who might be interested in applying. What neither she nor I could have known, was how desire would stir in my heart as soon as she started to describe it to me.

There are things that I have come to absolutely love in private practice counseling. I love being my own boss, setting my own hours and having complete freedom over how I practice counseling.

There are also challenges. My income is constantly fluctuating and the recent changes in medical insurance have affected how much I am reimbursed for my work and whether or not my clients have coverage for mental health services. If you catch me on a vulnerable day, I am likely to rant about how much I pay in taxes and insurance.

I left my job as a school counselor in Chicago because I was completely burned out and I wanted to move to Rockford to be closer to my family and to be more involved in R2HOP. I wrongly assumed that I would never again work as a school counselor because I didn't think there was a private school here that would hire me and because I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted that I could not ever imagine working in another school.

Well, you know what they say: never say never.

As I initially considered the position, I was surprised by how quick my heart was to remember what it was like to be entrusted with the precious thoughts and feelings of children. I was surprised by how much I wanted to have that opportunity again.

I am excited about this new position, even though I know it will be a huge transition for me. I look forward to doing more preventative work and to having shorter sessions that include art and play. I'm also excited and curious about other possibilities that are available at RCS like helping with music during chapel or offering an elective to help children learn to express and care for their feelings in healthy ways.

And, I'm thankful that I can keep most of my clients in my private practice and continue the work that we have been doing together.

Engaging the desire that I felt about pursuing the school counselor position has also grown into something larger in my life. Recently, I have become aware of how much of my life I still live mostly from duty and out of fear. Wanting to be "good" in the eyes of God and others still strongly motivates a lot of my behavior and I want this to change. I want to be governed by love and desire for God, rather than fear and duty.

I'm meditating on John 15:9-10:

I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done--kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. (The Message)

I wrote it out on a card that I'm carrying with me. I'm praying for God to help me make my home in His love and to stay intimately connected with it. Where my desire is weak or stronger for someone or something other than God, I am presenting it to Him honestly and asking Him to change my heart. Where I am tempted to do the right thing for the sake of being "good" or because I'm afraid of what people will think or how they will respond, I am owning what I truly desire and making it my offering to God.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1152: We had a wonderful time in Chicago celebrating my friend and former intern, Frances, as she married Matt! (The first three pictures are some of the beautiful moments that we captured there.)
  • #1153: It was so, so refreshing to my heart to spend a weekend in Chicago and reconnect with my treasured friends and former roommates Michelle and Christine!
  • #1154: Just days later, Ben and I got to host my dear friends from my time at the French School, Carine and Lilita, at our home
  • #1155: Carine and Lilita got to visit the farm and take some delicious vegetables back to Chicago with them
  • #1156: My house is clean because of all the company
  • #1157: I have been living a new rhythm of prioritizing resting and receiving in my free time over accomplishing important tasks
  • #1158: I have been practicing saying calm when someone seems unhappy with me or needs something that I am not willing to provide and waiting until I am actually ready to respond before I try to fix the problem
  • #1159: We get to go camping AND tubing this weekend
  • #1160: My birthday is on Monday and I took the day off, decided that I'm going out to breakfast and making myself my favorite cake
  • #1161: We got to borrow one of our favorite dogs this weekend

Monday, July 13, 2015

Busy summer

I have been staying busy this summer and not telling you very much here.

Lots of fun and exciting things have happened. There have also been moments where my heart has felt heavy and life has felt challenging.

Something fun was when I saw two foxes hanging out at a house just around the corner from me.

They were sitting together at the end of the driveway until one had an itch and needed the brick wall nearby to scratch it.

Karyn says that one is called Charlie and he is a regular around our neighborhoods.

I think this is true because Ben and I saw him again in another yard when we were walking home from watching fireworks on the 4th of July.

We had an amazing weekend in June at Camp Pathfinder in Algonquin Park with my extended family on my mom's side. We slept in platform tents and Ben and I paddled around the island, without tipping over, in a wood and canvas canoe. My cousin Warren showed us around his wood shop and explained how they make and maintain the canoes that we were enjoying. We visited with aunts, uncles and cousins and ate lots of delicious foods.

We stopped in Shelby, MI to visit our good friends Rich and Pam Lantz on the way home. Josh and Laura Anderson were there too and it was so nice to reconnect with people whose hearts still feel so familiar.

Our yard is still full of flowers and colors, although the weeds that we have not had time or energy to pull are becoming more assertive.

After about a month of thinking that my work was causing my heart to feel heavy, I discovered that I was mostly missing Ben.

I remember Kelli Anderson saying something earlier this year about how she doesn't look forward to the summer months the way most people do because she knows that it will mean that Philip is extremely busy with farming. I remember thinking something like, "Hmmmmmmm...that's interesting. I don't think I've felt that way. Summer is so much fun and I love summer!"

But now, I feel much more understanding and empathy because I have really been missing Ben.

He is so very busy farming. I cannot even describe how hard he, the Andersons and all of those work share volunteers work every day in order to grow and harvest delicious vegetables. They usually start really early in the morning and work until after dark. (I am beaming with pride as I think about how hard Ben works. And, I miss him.)

I miss the rhythm of the winter months when he can steal a morning at home if I'm going into work late or take off an entire Wednesday to spend with me. I miss waking up and starting our day together and having time and energy at the end of the day to connect.

And, I don't like these feelings of mine. I don't want to admit that I am not functioning as well as I can because I am not spending as much quality time with my husband as I desire and need. I don't like to ask him to see if he can leave work early because I need to see him, to touch him and to talk with him.

However, as I have discovered in the past month, the alternative is worse. When I refuse to admit my need and make my requests known, then my heart gets hard. I struggle to connect with Ben even when he is available because I have told my heart to stop desiring connection with him. In trying to cope with things by myself and not inconvenience Ben, I have actually made the problem worse.

God, in His kindness, has been inviting me to practice honesty with myself. It's not really Ben who has a problem with my needs. It's not God either. In fact, it's me who has the greatest problem with all of my desires, my needs, my feelings, my hopes and my fears. It's not God or others who are telling me to keep quiet and take care of myself. It's God and others who are inviting me into rich, authentic life where my requests are made known and intimacy brings joy.

I am responding to this invitation and my heart is becoming more light.

Still Counting Gifts:
  • #1142: A really fun 4th of July spent with many special people
  • #1143: I'm learning to play a new song on the piano
  • #1144: We put up the lights in our screened-in porch and it's my new favorite place to eat and be
  • #1145: How God's mercies feel new every morning
  • #1146: All.the.rain.
  • #1147: Sweet quality time with my husband this weekend
  • #1148: Anticipating a fun weekend in Chicago
  • #1149: Hosting friends at our house
  • #1150: Releasing pent up feelings in a clean, healthy way
  • #1151: Hope in uncertainty