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“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1

Technology, smart phones, Netflix, social media.. it is all here to stay. So, the question is: “How can I live in greater unity with my family this summer instead of having to compete with the disconnection that so often results from excessive screen use?” 

When I think about summertime, my mind is flooded with images of barbecues, pool time, playing in the sprinklers, outdoor concerts, hiking, chasing fireflies, and lots of family time in the sun. But, until we create some important family boundaries regarding screen-time, summer will pass by with limited face-to-face, meaningful connection time.

Daily Media Consumption

Psychology Today quoted some research from the market-research group Nielsen: 

“Adults are spending over 11 hours per day interacting with media, that’s up from 9 hours and 32 minutes from four years ago. Of that 11 hours, 4 hours and 46 minutes are spent watching TV. According to an oft-cited 2016 report by Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of 9 hours per day interacting with media, not including time spent for school or homework. For kids ages 8-12, the same Common Sense media survey report found they were spending 6 hours per day interacting with media. Kids ages 2-5 spend around 32 hours per week in front of a screen (e.g., watching TV, videos, gaming).”

These numbers are staggering, but it is consistent with what I often see in many of the families that I work with. As a society, we are missing out on so much as we ironically “tune in” in fear of missing out. 

Intentional Family Connection

I recently came across a refreshing article called ScreenTime: From Tuning In to Turning Towards, written by therapists and master trainers, Don and Carrie Cole of the Gottman Institute. They offer some practical and helpful ideas about intentional family connection time. Here are some great ideas for change that were offered to the family they highlighted in the article: 

Have a weekly family meeting
Schedule a weekly family meeting to set screen time limits that seem fair to everyone. And use the meetings to evaluate how those agreements are working out. In the Gottman Method, we encourage couples to have a weekly State of the Union meeting. You can do the same thing in your family. 

Allow everyone to weigh in on the conversation
While it is the parents’ responsibility to ultimately set the limits, children often respond best when they have a voice in the conversation about what is important to them.

Agree on some simple things
Begin small and perhaps agree to have some time when everyone is to be without phones or screens, such as family dinner. 

Make memories as a family
Plan weekend activities that are interactive and fun for everyone. Take a trip to the zoo, or a museum. Go for a hike in the woods. Learn how to kayak or go skiing. Try incorporating a game night as a family ritual.

Use social media to connect with each other
Technology doesn’t need to be the enemy of connection. Try sending each other daily text messages as a way of connecting. Or share links of interesting or funny videos or social media posts.

Be kind to each other
If there’s a conflict, or the screen time plan doesn’t seem to be working, take a deep breath, be kind to each other, and begin again—without criticism, defensiveness, or contempt. Sometimes it takes a few attempts to work out a compromise, so be patient with each other through this process.

Validate your child’s feelings
If a time limit is agreed upon and your child goes into meltdown or rage when the time limit has been reached, validate their feelings. “You seem (angry or disappointed) about the screen time limit. Tell me what’s upsetting you.” If they respond by saying that this is unfair, then suggest that they bring it up at the next family meeting. If they agreed to it during the first family meeting remind them of this. Then ask, “Since this is the way it is right now, what would you like to do instead?” Empathize but don’t back down or capitulate. Make sure that the consequences of that behavior have been discussed ahead of time.

What great ideas! Some of these seem simple and obvious, but less and less families are making time for these practices. Which of these could you try with your family in the coming weeks? Start by introducing one of these recommendations at a time and watch as your conversation becomes more meaningful and your connection time becomes more rich!

Learn More

Are you interested in learning more about technology and relationships? What are your thoughts about doing a “digital detox” this summer? Check out some more ideas from a past Cornerstone 5-part blog series called “You’re Missing Out” right here (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5).

The post How to have a More Screen-less Summer appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs

Valuing Time

A good therapist knows how to manage the time in a therapy session well so that you, as the client and they, as the counselor, are able to get some good and meaningful work done! Goodtherapy.org makes this excellent and important statement: “At the beginning of therapy, many people are curious about what they need to do to make therapy work for them. They know that they will have to work in therapy to make it effective, but they often don’t know what that entails. Unfortunately, the unknowns of therapy cause some to feel that they’re just wandering and not making progress, or it causes them to leave therapy before they get to experience all the wonderful benefits. On a different end of the spectrum, these circumstances can also cause a person to stay in therapy too long and still not reap the rewards of good psychotherapy.” 

Have you ever been on either end of these spectrums? Many people have. Time is a precious commodity and one of the things that we need to use wisely and to steward well in all areas of our lives. You are so brave to say “yes!” to a process that is meant to help you to become the best version of yourself, to heal from past wounds, and to improve your relationships. We want you to feel empowered as a client to have realistic expectations about the process as well as giving you an invitation to provide feedback to your therapist so that you can make the most out of your sessions.

A Therapeutic Hour

Here is the ideal time table for what we call the “therapeutic hour” :

– A therapeutic hour is actually 50-minutes in the room

– The therapy portion of the session is 45-minutes

– The first 5-10 minutes of a session are generally for check-in and determining the direction of that session. Make sure you use this time effectively.  Let your therapist know what may effect your session that day and how you would like to use that time if that is unclear. 

– The next 30-40 minutes are for working towards your goals.  Open yourself to what God wants to do in you and dive in! 

– The last 5 minutes of the session are for scheduling.  

– The 10 minutes between sessions is for the therapist. This time is meant for note taking and planning, as well as preparing for the next session

– Most importantly: much, if not most, of the progress can actually happen in between session when you apply what you discussed and experienced in session!

Additional Therapy Session Insight

Another helpful article, The Therapeutic Hour (from www.susanlevitonmft.com) offers some other important things to consider when you think about the process of counseling and the time that is spent inside and outside of the room. She says this:

“Even though you are paying for one hour of time, therapists often spend a good deal of time working for you outside of that hour. Here are some of the things your therapist may be doing for you between sessions (please note that some therapists do charge extra for these activities and should let you know ahead of time):

Talk with you on the phone – respond to your emails – make schedule changes – call your doctor, your child’s teacher, a parent, etc. – consult with colleagues (without any identifying information—confidentiality is always maintained) – consult with an attorney on legal matters – purchase toys and games for children in play therapy -research books, websites, literature, and so on, for you – attend educational courses, seminars, and workshops -read books on an issue you are dealing with – bill your insurance company, call them, re-bill them, etc. or create super bills or statements for you -reflect on your last session and your overall treatment for more clues, insights, and ideas – and so on.

As you can see, client time is rarely limited to just 60 minutes. Being a therapist, like therapy itself, is an ongoing process and there is always something going on behind the scenes.”

The goal in presenting all of this information is in an effort to help you as you consider counseling for the first time. If you are already engaged in counseling, you might decide to have a conversation with your therapist about reassessing the way that you use the therapeutic hour, together, to be even more effective.

Our aim is always to help you to get the most out your money and time, when it comes to the therapy process! Please give us a call at 303-902-3068 or email us at info@christiancounselingco.com for more information about setting up an appointment or answering any questions that you may have!

The post Making the Most of Your Therapy Session appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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Premarital Counseling

Do you have questions about premarital counseling? Are you or someone you love looking for a therapist to help get started off on the right foot? Health Research Fund estimates that couples who underwent premarital counseling before their wedding had a 30% higher marital satisfaction rate to those who did not attend counseling before their wedding. And if a couple goes to counseling for 6-8 sessions somewhere around 4-6 months before their wedding day, they may only be looking at 1-5% of their total wedding budget. Premarital counseling is a GREAT investment that is statistically supported to improve the quality and longevity of your marriage.

Licensed Marriage and family therapist of San Diego, Lindsay Wilson, says this:

“I always tell my couples that I have no business giving them the stamp of approval to get married or not. I want them to bring their whole selves into the therapy room without fear that I will tell them something definitive about the success of their marriage. I tell them: therapy is the place to bring your ‘dirty laundry’, don’t bring the already put-together parts of your relationship, bring the stuff that needs to be cleaned out and worked through.”

3 Common Questions

So, here are three quick questions that you may be asking about Christian premarital counseling:

1. What will we talk about?

Many therapists encourage couples to complete a relationship compatibility test that highlights a couples strengths and areas that need growth such as SYMBIS or Prepare and Enrich (you can research these assessments online). They are low cost and produce helpful statistics to help uniquely design the focus and topics most important for the couple. Premarital counseling is not “one size fits all.” Some couples excel in the area of finances, where another may need to spend more time discussing budgeting and saving strategies. Some couples score high on mutual understanding about sex and sexually-related issues, where other couples may have never shared their thoughts or expectations about this. So, you can expect to be affirmed and validated regarding topics that you thrive in currently, and you can anticipate a prediction and exploration of possible areas of needed growth.

2. Will we fight?

Hopefully! Learning to “fight fair” is a great use of your premarital counseling time. Conflict is not only inevitable, it is healthy and can be very helpful. In therapy, you will learn to see from the perspective of your soon-to-be spouse; you will learn how to connect more deeply and intentionally, and how to have conflict in a way that grows you as individuals and as a couple. It is possible to have “productive” disagreements that will ultimately edify and benefit you and those around you. Going into these sessions with the expectation that conflict will arise and choosing to remain open (verses defensive) will create meaningful learning and development in your relationship.

3. Are there any recommended books for engaged couples?

Books can be a great resource and avenue for addressing current and potential challenges. There are five that we love here at Cornerstone and recommend to our premarital couples (but are actually very helpful for marriage enrichment as well).

  • Hold Me Tight – Sue Johnson
  • The Meaning of Marriage – Timothy Keller
  • Love and War – John and Stasi Eldredge
  • The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
  • 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman

Premarital counseling helps begin dialogue about common topics that are important for a successful marriage and builds a solid, biblical foundation. We desire for your marriage to be more beautiful than your wedding day! Give us a call at 303-902-3068 or email us at info@christiancounselingco.com to set up an appointment.

What other questions do you have? Are there are other books that you have read or resources that you have come across that you have found helpful? Please share with us. Comment below!

The post Premarital Counseling: What to Expect appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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Wedding season is upon us! You are contacting caterers and DJ’s, tasting hors d’oeuvres and cake, keeping track of numbers and receipts, making choices about decorations, and finalizing your guest list… but have you decided to make time for and invest in some premarital counseling together? 

Premarital Counseling

This type of counseling is an opportunity to make sure that you are “on the same page” and to build a foundation for a sturdy and lasting marriage. 

Will marriage still be hard? Yes, absolutely. But you are embarking on a journey with this person. Before you go on any journey, trip, adventure… preparation is not only a suggestion, it’s a necessity. What would you say to a couple who decides to set off on a week-long hiking expedition but does not have the proper gear, meals, clothing, or plan? You would call them foolish because they would likely get hurt, lost, or die. And this is a week. If done right, you are preparing for a marriage that will last your lifetime. 

So, here are three important reasons that you may not have thought of for choosing to pursue counseling toegther, before you say “I do.” 

Motivation, Core Values, and Differences

You already know that premarital counseling will help equip you in the areas of improving communication and conflict management skills. But have you stopped to think about what is behind miscommunication and conflict? By the way… conflict is not only inevitable in your relationship, it is necessary. We all bring our own perspectives, experiences, and expectations into any relationship. It is important that you work together to increase your awareness about what might be motivating your partner’s choices and viewpoints. You will (hopefully) become very good at making compromises and “fighting fair” in your marriage, but in order to do this you must learn about the core values that you each have and the way that the beautiful differences and strengths that you bring into the relationship can help you to become more unified as you grow and change together. Initially “opposites attract” but without intentionality and investment, eventually “opposites will attack.” 

Family Boundaries

Whether we like it or not, our family of origin plays an enormous role in the way that we think, feel, and behave. In an effort to avoid unexpected conflict regarding the relationships you have together and individually with you parents, siblings and other family members… it is wise to discuss these dynamics ahead of time. You may think, “Yeah, my family is weird/loud/obnoxious/intense/different/crazy… but, isn’t everyones? We will be fine.” Attempting to gloss over challenging family dynamics can lead to disconnect and division in your relationship. This can happen very quickly and it’s effects can be devastating and long lasting. Discussing important boundaries up front is a proactive way to address problems with family members and family of origin issues in the future. You will be so glad that you made time for this. 

Sin and Forgiveness

I want to share an ugly truth about marriage: You will hurt each other. Whether it is accidental or intentional, you will both do your fair share of disappointing and upsetting your spouse. Preparing for conflict is important, but what happens after conflict? How do we repair when some damage has been done. Surprisingly, many people lack the skills and practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. There is a “cost” to forgiveness as you lay down pride, anger, and resentment to turn towards your spouse. But this is so worth it. It is easy for us to be “blind” to the sin and struggles of the person that we are marrying because we truly do feel so overwhelmed by love and affection towards them. But we need to be honest about our tendencies and hang ups up front so that we are more able to exercise grace, flexibility, and understanding later. Forgiveness is one of the most important tools in your box/belt/shed and will help you to be resilient and to strengthen and persevere through the challenges. 

If you or someone you know is interested in premarital counseling, we have incredible therapists at each of our locations who are eager to help you and your partner get off on the right foot. Your marriage is worth this kind of investment. Give us a call at 303-902-3068 or email us at info@christiancounselingco.com. Get your questions answered and get an appointment set up today!

The post 3 Surprising Reasons You Need Premarital Counseling appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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* This is our second blog in a mini-series about generosity and burnout. If you haven’t yet, check out part one about generosity towards ourselves, here.

Grateful for Community

My wife and I are so grateful for the community of people we have around us, both locally and internationally. We have been very fortunate to develop many relationships together over our last 8 years of marriage and ever since we have had children, our gratitude expands because we never have to worry about finding babysitters. We don’t struggle with a sense of isolation or loneliness as we meet with church and community, friends and family throughout the week. We are even privileged to be empowered as leaders in the use of our spiritual gifts in our local church. My wife and I have become well-versed in avoiding burnout and managing stress. 

I say all of this to offer some hope, not to paint a picture of a couple that never struggles, experiences conflict, or gives in to anxiety. No marriage or relationship is perfect! I say all of this to encourage you that it is possible to arrange your life in such a way that when struggles, conflict, and anxiety come knocking… you are full, you are rested, and you are ready. This rhythm of rest, generosity, and self-care is something that we are still developing and it has not always been this way.

My wife is honestly one of the most generous individuals you will ever meet. She is balanced, she is consistent, she is selfless, she is goal-oriented, she is thoughtful, and she always makes decisions with pure, unadulterated motivation. She fills in where I so often am horribly lacking! But that is the point, right?

Created for Companionship

In Genesis 2, God takes a step back. I imagine a hand on His chin, a puzzled but curious expression in his eyes, head cocked to the side… “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” He crafts a beautiful solution to the man’s deficiency. But it takes the sacrifice of His body to form the woman. In order for her to be shaped, molded, fashioned… He had to give of himself. 

This is the first demonstration of generosity. The man and God had a relationship before the helper came along. What if God said to Him, “I need something from you, Son.” The man agrees and submits to the process, desiring more than anything to share this beautiful paradise with someone who is like him. God breathes a heavenly anesthesia into the man’s nostrils and takes what the man was willing to be opened up to give.

The first man gave a portion of himself to animate his companion, and the first woman offered him the ability to be transparent, authentic, “naked and unashamed” (2:25). They were given to each other, by God, to help each other to live as the best versions of themselves. 

Generosity Toward Others

When you think of being generous towards others or helping them to become the best versions of themselves, what ideas come up for you? 

  • Can you remember a time when someone offered a listening ear when you were overwhelmed, panicked, depressed, or anxious? 
  • Can you recall a moment when you were the recipient of someone’s bend-over-backwards hospitality? 
  • Can you think back to a memory of someone serving you with their time, talent, finances, or kindness?
  • There are so many ways that we can offer respite and rest to our friends and loved-ones.
  • Who comes to mind when you think of putting yourself in a position to give, to serve, to be generous? 

Some of the things that we as a couple have begun to do this year in an effort to offer generosity to each other are:

1. Prioritize regular date nights

They don’t have to be extravagant and expensive, they just have to be set-apart time to connect and check in. If you are not dating or married, are you able to schedule this kind of time with friends and loved ones?

2. Give each other self-date night

This is a new concept for us, but something that we have found to be so valuable. Your husband, your wife, your single-parent friend… they need a break, a couple hours to themselves where they are able to sit in silence, solitude, and stillness away from the children, away from chores and household responsibilities, away from noise and distraction. These nights, one of us will take on dinner and bedtime with the kids to allow the other person time to sit at a coffee shop and write, read, draw; to go on a run or walk and pray; to engage in some kind of intentional rest with the purpose of processing and re-filling. 

3. Ask about needs

When was the last time you asked your spouse or friend this question: “What do you need? How can I serve you today?” This is a powerful question that extends an invitation to the person on the receiving end to share openly about any holistic (mental, spiritual, emotional, sexual, physical) need or desire. It gives the question asker an opportunity to respond uniquely and specifically to fulfill a need. It gives the generous one a chance to learn about their loved one to better serve them, to spontaneously serve them, in the future. It offers both people an increased sense of connection. 

I want to challenge you to put these strategies for generosity in to practice over the coming month. 

Your loved one is worth being served. 

You are generous, kind, and valuable. 

You are capable of meeting the needs of those you love. 

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer…” (Proverbs 11:24)

The post Generosity Towards Others: How to Prevent Burnout for Those We Love appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

Rest and Connection

Just yesterday, I was talking to one of my friends about how wonderful it has been to come home from work, to go straight outside with my kids, to swing in the hammock, to play tag in the greening grass and to bask in the warm Spring sun. We were talking about prioritizing rest and connection. 

Choosing rest and connection is a form of generosity. Generosity means: showing kindness and/or a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected

To be generous is to be a giver. We learn about how to do this from the One who gave more than we could imagine offering. The Most Generous One. “For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life,” (John 3:16). 

To be a good lover of ourselves… to prioritize self care and rest… requires that we give.

Does this seem a bit counter-intuitive? It does to me. What do you mean that in order to be generous to myself, that I need to give more? I already give so much during my day. To clients, to co-workers, to the government, to social media, to my spouse, to school, to my kids, to my church, to my children’s sports teams, to my employees… give, give, give. 

Ahh yes. That is true. If we are privileged to hold jobs or go to school, to be in meaningful relationships, to be in positions of leadership, to be a part of a local church, to be involved in our children’s lives… it’s true, we are pouring ourselves out all day long. 

But the important question is this… are we giving to ourselves? I didn’t put “me” on that list, and you may not naturally do it either.

What is “Burnout?”

Contributing authors to Help Guide International do a good job defining this concept: 

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life—including your home, work, and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

This is one of the best definitions I have read! It is the potential result of “excessive and prolonged stress” not being attended to. Here is a little secret, though, burnout is not inevitable… it is completely preventable.

Stress vs. Burnout

Stress is bad for our bodies. You are not more important or holy because you are busy, and certainly not because you are stressed! Also, stress is not a fun thing to “bond” over but we do it all of the time. For example, you get to work and someone says, “Ugh… another day. Good thing it’s Tuesday, only three days left.” Would it be so awkward if instead of dreadful complaints and stress-motivated greetings, we said something like, “Good morning! I slept so well last night. I am ready for the day and excited to see what it brings!” 

Check out this chart that helps break down the difference between stress and “burnout.” 

Stress is actually an alarm that is meant to tell your body, “Hey! Check in with yourself. Prioritize rest. Your cup is close to being empty. You are not managing your stress and responsibilities well.” 

Self-Generosity! 

What does it look like to be a “cheerful giver” to myself? 

“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from!” (Brianna Weist). Avoiding burnout and being generous towards yourself is a lifestyle, not infrequent overindulgence. Read and print this list of some ideas to consider, broken up into categories. What category needs the most attention and care? In what area can you challenge yourself to be more generous? 

Physical

  • Make exercise a priority! 

You don’t have to hit the gym to experience these benefits. 30 minutes daily (could even be broken into three 10 minute intervals, or two 15 minute intervals) of some form of exercise will improve your mood, and decrease stress (and a nasty hormone called “cortisol”)

  • Sleep! 

Exhaustion can lead to irrational thinking and poor decision making, which exacerbates stress

Mental

  • Try a little creativity!

Expressed creativity (in any form) is a way to externalize stress and other negative emotion. It is not just painting and drawing. It can be building, constructing, writing, playing an instrument, problem solving, etc (look up “creative activities” online for more ideas).

  • SET BOUNDARIES!

I think that this is the hardest one for most people. Whether our motivation is that we don’t want to disappoint others, or because we desire to be in control… we struggle to say “no” and end up overextending ourselves. Saying “no” up front will give you the opportunity to say “yes” to activities and choices you do want to make. (This also applies to taking breaks from technology). 

Occupational

  • Try to find a way to reframe how you approach work!

Try to find some value in what you do to help regain a sense of control and purpose. 

  • Take time off

Recharge your batteries by using sick leave to take a mental health day. Use that time to actively rest and engage in activities that are life-giving and refreshing (i.e. don’t just binge-watch Netflix all day).

Relational

  • Reach out to your friends and trusted family members! 

This one is self-explanatory. But, how often do we forget to express our needs and share our struggles with those who love us the best? It may possibly be a way to build trust and strengthen your friendship

  • Reduce contact with negative people!

People who are chronic complainers and cynics, their behavior can be toxic and affect your mood and energy. Be wise about how much time you spend with these individuals

Spiritual

  • Quiet, set aside prayer time!

When was the last time that you sat for 10-15 minutes with no distractions and just meditated on the Word, prayed for the day ahead, or simply listened for His voice? This time can be brief, but extremely powerful!

  • Worship! 

“Worship” means to ascribe worth to. How do you worship the Lord? What do you like to do as you ascribe worth to and meditate on Him? This does not have to be only through music. It could be hiking, cooking, or working out. When we choose an activity and give praise, thanksgiving, and worth back to Him through it… we are offering unique, beautiful worship.

The post Generosity Towards Ourselves: How to Prevent Burnout appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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“We must consult our means, rather than our wishes” -George Washington

What an amazing quote. 

What are some things you wish for? 

I wish like to travel all day every day for the rest of my life, with my beautiful wife by my side. I’d love to explore the islands of Fiji, climb glaciers in Iceland, and sleep in hammocks over the turquoise ocean in the Maldives. I wish I could weekly try five course meals with drink pairings at fancy, foodie restaurants in my city and around the globe. I wish I could send my children to top universities and give them extravagant, luxurious, opulent weddings. 

Will I do some traveling? Absolutely. Will I enjoy a fancy, special dinner now and then? Definitely. Will I give my kids the best that I can manage to give when it comes to their education and celebration? Of course! But accruing thousands of dollars by extending myself far outside my budget is a guaranteed way to invite the company of regret, anxiety, and the proverbial “bursted bubble.” Ironically, I will end up losing the apparent pleasure, joy, and fun that I just experienced. What’s the point?

Mr. Washington is right… we (especially “we” meaning Americans) must learn to live within our means and to use the money that we earn, wisely.

I once heard it said, “Don’t show me what your value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” It’s true. The way that we prioritize how we spend our money exposes our hearts. It’s like Jesus said, after explaining the importance of storing up treasures in Heaven: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). 

Budget Breakdown

Christian blogger and certified educator in personal finance, Bob Lotich, offers this simple budget explanation:

Expenses  >  Income  =  Bad

Expenses  <  Income  =  Good

As simple as it sounds, that is the key to wealth. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who IS wealthy (I emphasize IS because I am not talking about people who appear to be wealthy, but who are actually in debt up to their eyeballs) spends LESS money than they earn. AKA – their expenses are less than their income.”

You can ask my wife… I honestly hate talking about money. I hate financial conversations and historically, I have hated sitting down to discuss budgeting and bills. I used to joke about going back to a bartering system where we just exchange and share things with people rather than having to swipe cards and write checks. But, this obviously would never work in our current society. I am working on changing my heart and attitude about money, because I have (finally) come to the realization that it’s not going anywhere and it influences and effects my daily life more than I want to admit.

Scripture tells us that we cannot serve money (Matthew 6:24), but that we must take the reins and create strategies for money to serve us. The truth is that budgeting is about having more, and can lead to abundance and wealth. When we make our income work for us, we feel a greater sense of contentment and ownership.

I have a friend named Joel who recently talked about “giving” at church. He talked about our money being representative of a “vote.” He simply said, “When we give to any certain cause, when we buy a certain product, when we tithe… we are “voting” for the cause, company, or organization that we want to succeed. When we give to this church, we become partners in the success of this institution by casting a vote with our money.” 

This created a paradigm shift for me… an “ah ha” moment. Spending is like voting and where/how I spend my money represents what I care about. 

How to Stick to Your Budget (Fun Funds)

First, you have to create one. There are a number of excellent budget spreadsheets online that you can look up and begin personalizing. There are apps and tools that help you to track and categorize your income with less effort than having to keep a paper record of your expenses and spending. 

But I love this reminder from Mr. Lotich: “The almost sure-fire way to make a budget that fails is to NOT budget for any fun stuff. I wrote about how budgeting should be fun and it is a necessary ingredient for success. You need to budget for clothing, entertainment, going out to dinner, or whatever else it is you love to do! The key is to do it in moderation and to set limits and abide by them.” If we set aside and prioritize “fun funds” then we will look forward to maintaining our budget so that we will be able to spend dollars on things we actually want, without the feeling of guilt that we get when we spend outside our means. 

Homework

Do something different this week in regards to your finances. Create a budget with realistic categories. Discuss and generate a plan to begin intentionally chipping away at your debt. Talk about holiday spending for the upcoming year. Share about causes and organizations that you’d like to make donations to. Pray about tithing and giving even 1% more than you currently tithe (if you already do this faithfully). 

We would love to hear your questions, thoughts, and ideas about budgeting in the comments below!

The post How Our Money Exposes Us (Why Budgeting is Important) appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16)

The “G” Word

Let’s talk about giving. More specifically, let’s talk about financial giving! Please don’t run. This is important! So much of scripture uses financial language to describe Jesus’ love for us, and work on the cross. When we talk about generosity, it’s important for us to begin by remembering what the ultimate depiction of generosity is… Jesus exchanging His life for us, so that we can not only live eternally but also have access to the most mind-blowing inheritance we could ever imagine. He actually calls us heirs (Romans 8:17). I once heard someone say, “God bankrupted heaven for us!” This means that the most valuable thing that heaven had was used to clear our debts and buy us back. 

Roman’s 6:23- “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 7:23- “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”

Compared to what Jesus did, our struggle to give $20 to a homeless person, our stingy Sunday afternoon tipping habits at restaurants, and our unwillingness to raise our hands to sponsor a child with a monthly commitment seems to pale in comparison. As I read on one pastor’s post this past week, “Don’t complain about tithing and then come into church on Sunday with a venti Starbucks drink.” Many of us have done this (I know I have). When was the last time I went through the drive-through and offered to pay for the person behind me? When was the last time I contributed to a “go-fund me” to help someone in need? We were not made to live incongruently, but when we do not give out of the abundance we have been given, we are failing to display good stewardship of our finances… but more importantly, we are failing to display good stewardship of the love of Christ!

Physical Health and Giving

Scott Bea, PsyD of Cleveland Clinic contributed to an article entitled “Wanna Give? This Is Your Brain on a ‘Helper’s High.’ Studies document how giving affects your body”

Did you read that last part? Giving has a measurable, scientific impact on your physical health!

In his article, he stated “Studies find these health benefits associated with giving: Lower blood pressure, Increased self-esteem, Decreased depression, Lower stress levels, Longer life, Greater happiness.” Apart from financial giving, we can of course also offer our time, social support, and energy. These are equally important and this study showed that supportive interactions with others also helped people to recover quickly from coronary-related events. But this next part about financial giving is fascinating:

“There is evidence that, during gift-giving behaviors, humans secrete “feel good” chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical). When researchers from the National Institutes of Health looked at the functional MRIs of subjects who gave to various charities, they found that giving stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, which is the reward center in the brain — releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the “helper’s high.” And like other highs, this one is addictive, too.” 

In other words, your brain can’t tell the difference between a prescription or illicit drug that increases your brain’s “feel good” chemicals, and the act of giving. As far as it’s concerned, it’s the same thing. Of course, I know that I am grossly over-simplifying here, but you get it. When we give, our body experiences health benefits. When we are financially generous, our brain experiences pleasure. 

Generosity as a lifestyle

We are good at giving around the holidays, birthdays, and other times of celebration (as we should be!) But, let’s choose to increase our giving back to God. Let’s serve and honor Him by loving “the least of these” with our money. Let’s find ways to be a “good Samaritan” and practice “shirt off your back” kind of love.

At Cornerstone, we recognize the wide-ranging benefits of charitable giving and want you to partner with us in our “Water4” fundraiser (https://water4.org/)! We are celebrating 10 years here and want to be generous and sow into the Kingdom as a way to mark and commemorate all that He has done for us. Their mission is this: “Using faith, innovation and empowerment to re-imagine a world free from the water crisis.” Be on the lookout for our monthly newsletter, which will detail steps to give. Please pray about this! 

“If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” (Matthew 10:42)

The post Generosity Matters appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable” – CS Lewis, The Four Loves

Let’s just dive in deep.

In their book Created for Connection, Dr. Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer make this powerful statement:

“It is imperative that we comprehend what love is, how to make it, and how to make it last. People of faith, knowing that we are created in love and for love, feel this imperative on a spiritual as well as a pragmatic level. God is love (1 John 4:16) and we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). To be
disconnected from an understanding of what love is and how to live it out is a threat to the most fundamental aspect of our humanity, namely our connection to God and to one another. When we love he ability to create and hold onto romantic love, we lose the completeness that God created us for as image bearers (Gen 2:18-24).” 

I want the fullness and wholeness of all that my marriage has to offer me, my wife, our kids, my community, future generations, and God himself.

I don’t think it too far-reaching to say that fear and disconnection are what fuels 99% of the issues that we experience in our marriages. We misunderstand each other because our perspectives, assumptions, and lenses have been formed and informed by broken models. We become defensive with each other as our insecurities get exposed and we forget that taking ownership and working towards reconciliation is the best way to love ourselves and our spouse. We struggle to be vulnerable with each other because as Dr. Brene Brown says: “Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating. Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging the extra weight around… Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you” (Daring Greatly).

We are relational beings and need community (even you, Hardcore Introvert… I see you).

Two different times last week, I asked two different clients of mine about their support systems or circle of friends; they both said some version of this: “I hate humans/people. I honestly do. I would so much rather be by myself.”

What?

We must see this and similar perspectives as dangerous deceptions. Do we all need silence, solitude, and stillness- intentional time of withdrawal- in order to recharge, reset, and rest? Yes. Do people sometimes get on our nerves and test our patience? Absolutely. But to declare that you “hate” people is just a weak effort to justify your struggle to connect and to be vulnerable. Johnson and Sanderfer make this statement: “isolation and the potential loss of loving connection is coded by the human brain into a
primal panic response.” Safe emotional connection is our most valuable survival mechanism!

When it comes to our marriages, the value that we place on connection is paramount. There have been studies done which prove that loving contact with others is as important as physical nutrition. Johnson and Sanderfer note that, “contact with a loving partner literally acts as a buffer against shock, stress, and pain.” In other words, outside of relationship and connection, we will die (at least, we will die more quickly).

So, I want to briefly present the acronym A.R.E. which are three questions grounded in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) that are meant to encourage emotional responsiveness and return us back to a place of love and connection in our relationships, thus fulfilling the longing of the heart of our Father. These three main components are taken from the aforementioned text, Created for Connection:

  1. (A)ccessibility: Can I reach you?
    This means staying open to your partner even when you have doubts and feel insecure. It often means being willing to struggles to make sense of your emotions so these emotions are not so overwhelming. You can then step back from disconnection and can tune in to your lover’s attachment cues.
  2. (R)esponsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally?
    This means tuning in to your partner and showing that his or her emotions, especially attachment needs and fears, have an impact on you. It means accepting and placing a priority on the emotional signals your partner conveys and sending clear signals of comfort and caring when your partner needs them. Sensitive responsiveness always touches us emotionally and calms us on a physical level.
  3. (E)ngagement: Do I know that you will value me and stay close?
    The dictionary defines engaged as being absorbed, attracted, pulled, captivated, pledged, and involved. Emotional engagement here means the very special kind of attention that we give only to a loved one. We gaze at them longer, touch them more. Partners often talk of this as being emotionally present.

Jesus is our best model, especially because many of the models that we grew up with failed to live out their own marriages with this kind of intentionality and care. He is receptive and responsive. He is compassionate. He is move by our strength and vulnerability. He is a connecter and teaches us to do the same.

What do you think are some of the other parts and pieces of God’s vision for our marriages?

What are you tempted to do when disconnection shows up in your marriage?

What is one step towards vulnerability that you can take this week with your spouse?

The post God’s Vision for Your Marriage appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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Note: Before you read on, please consider that there may be content here that is triggering if you have experienced trauma related to sex or sexuality. Proceed at your discretion.

It can be challenging to discuss the topic of sex with your spouses, children, and church communities. So, we wanted to bring it into the open and talk about it!

We believe that we need to be willing to engage in conversations about sex and sexuality as Christian men and women. As leaders. As parents. And, especially, as spouses because we also believe that this is one area of relationship that “the thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

So what’s good, helpful, and permissible when it comes to sex and intimacy?

On their website marriedchristiansex.com * husband and wife team blog about various answers and insights surrounding the topic of sex. One of the important questions they answer is this: Are there any sexual limits or boundaries in a Christian marriage?

We agree with their words: “God has given us a wide field of freedom that is fenced with a few rules for our protection… outside of these perimeters, the possibilities are limitless. ” They go on to say, sex in marriage:

  1. Must involve only the married couple
  2. Must be consensual
  3. Must be satisfying for both spouses
  4. Must honor God/be done in faith

My wife and I have learned the importance of being very open about the subject of sex with each other in our marriage. We regularly practice verbally exposing any sexual discomforts and communicating our preferences to each other. We have become more comfortable redirecting each other or talking about specific desires. But this was not always easy. This is the product of coaching and counseling, intentionality, and established trust. Communication about this topic with our spouse can feel daunting and intimidating.

So, what gets in the way?

When it comes to healthy sexual communication and fulfillment, it is crucial to expose and confront the ultimate, ugly intimacy killer. The thing that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy… So, what is that killer?

Shame.  

Many people had horrendous experiences growing up that taught them to associate their nakedness and any reference to sexual activities with words like: danger, punishment, dirty, abuse, rape, Satan, used, worthless, disgusting, taboo, manipulation, hurt, and many others…

One of the most important things that we, as mental health counselors, have the privilege and honor of being a part of is the process where clients and their loved ones: heal from a continuum of past and recent sexual abuse, reconcile skewed, broken sexual identities, learn about and restore fulfilling, healthy, holy, passionate sexual activity in marriages, and overcome fear that seeks to prevent communication about this important God-designed subject.

Shame and sex are, unfortunately, inextricably linked. Sadly, this can tend to be exacerbated in highly conservative Christian circles and churches as well.  

Brené Brown, a leading researcher in this area, defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It’s the most primitive human emotion we all feel—and the one no one wants to talk about.”

Many of us (myself included) have had experiences in our recent or distant pasts where the act of sex or sexually-related experiences have been perverted, distorted, and hurtful. It is extremely important for husbands and wives to discover ways to talk about sex openly and honestly in order to have a connected, thriving marriage.

Years ago, we decided to invest in some intentional pre-marital classes before our wedding day where we discussed, at length, past sexual abuse, incidents where we had been sexually deviant, as well as any exposure to and use of pornography. This was money and time extremely well spent whether you are engaged or married 20 years!

Shame is at the root of so many problems that seek to inhibit positive sexual connection such as:

unmet expectations, self-confidence, fear and various types of anxiety, insecurity, emotional disconnection, and unbalanced priorities. You are not alone in your search for sexual health as an individual and/or in your marriage.

Here at Cornerstone, we care deeply about people’s holistic selves, included in which is the topic of sex. We have several counselors who are passionate, equipped, educated, and well-versed in discussing issues surrounding this subject as well as any role that faith may play in relation to it. Please give us a call at 303-902-3068 or email us at: info@christiancounselingco.com if you’d like more information about setting up an appointment with one of our qualified, professional mental health counselors to help you in the process of overcoming these barriers to healthy sexuality.

*For Christian married couples wanting their challenging, important questions answered… this website is dedicated to improving the frequency and quality of sex in a committed Christian marriage and decreasing the stigma and fear connected to dialoguing about sex. Explore at your own discretion! http://marriedchristiansex.com/

From their main page:

“The site is pretty explicit and we aren’t prudish, so if that’s going to offend you then you should go elsewhere.  The content is also definitely not work-safe or kid-safe.  You’ve been warned.

There are a lot of other sites that give relationship advice, help couples “communicate”, and guide people past hang-ups and emotional trauma.  This site is not about those things.  We’re going to focus on the sex.”

The post Sex: What’s Okay and What Gets in the Way? appeared first on Cornerstone Christian Counseling.

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