The Awkward Summer
My apologies for not writing sooner. The spring/summer has been an awkward one. In May, there was another school shooting followed by the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It was painful to say the least, to watch reporters struggle to transition from tragic news to joyful news.
I also had a friend get married in May — Sharmalee. She was married May 26. Then, on June 10 she was shot and killed by a family member. This tragedy hit close to home. It was especially painful for those of us who work on Thursday evenings, Care Night, here at the church. Sharmalee was an integral part of launching Care Night. She shared in the vision of providing support to those struggling with mental health issues and their families.
Following her tragedy our team knew we needed time to heal. We have taken some time off from Care Night this summer. There were no classes in July and there will be no support groups or classes for most of August. We respectfully ask for your prayers as we take some time to acknowledge our personal loss and seek God’s comfort and healing grace.
I personally am blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful team of volunteers and staff colleagues. While it would be easy to ignore our own pain and just keep going, taking care of others, we want to model positive mental health practices. We want to set an example of self-care. We want to extend support to others when we return with our hearts fully ready to share rather than from a place of brokenness.
May you enjoy the rest of your summer. We will post information soon about our fall support groups and classes. We look forward to continuing Sharmalee’s legacy of bringing support, education and hope to others.
“Why a Support Group?”
I just experienced a “Griefburst.” “Griefburst” is a term Dr. Alan Wolfelt uses in his book Understanding Your Grief. A “Griefburst” is when a wave of grief washes over you. Sometimes you can see it coming. Most of the time it’s unexpected. I learned through participating in, and later facilitating, a grief support group to allow the wave to simply wash over me. As long as I let myself feel all the sorrow it brings, the wave will just as rapidly wash away. On the other hand, if I try to ignore it, grief tends to grow and grow and grow, until at last I take time to pay attention.
My current “Griefburst” is related to moving. I’m downsizing and leaving the space I’ve lived in for 20 years. I knew the sadness was there. I’ve just been too busy to pay much attention. Even though I was not caught off guard, I waited long enough that this was a big wave. Thankfully, I’ve learned from support groups how to do some self-care so I was able to ride the wave.
So why a support group? How can a group help when it seems that each of us journeys through life in our own unique way?
There are several benefits to groups. I found an article on the Mayo Clinic website that lists eight benefits and offers suggestions on how to find a group that best fits your needs (see link below). I’m going to focus today on three benefits: Connection, Accountability and Normalizing. These are benefits that I have observed or that group members have shared with me.
When we are going through any of life’s trials and challenges, we can often feel isolated, like we are the only one going through this. It’s amazing the reassurance we feel when we find out we are not the only one facing cancer, or going through a divorce after 20 years of marriage, or recovering from addiction, or dealing with financial stress. No, you are not the only one walking through that valley. One group member puts it this way, “Life is not easy, but God does not expect you to do it alone. I truly believe God is the key to peace in our darkest hours.” MJ.
Knowing there is someone else paying attention to our progress, often gives us the extra motivation to keep striving to achieve our goal, even when everything in us wants to quit. Whether that goal is divorce recovery or healing from a significant loss, having someone else to check in with makes a difference. This is why programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers are so effective. According to one article, “A Consumer Reports survey found that people who went to meetings were more satisfied with the program (Weight Watchers) and lost more weight than people who used only the online tools.” From https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/weight-watchers-diet *(accessed 3/21/18)
Dr. Wolfelt is one of the most gentle and informative authors on grief we have found. In his book Understanding Your Grief there is an entire chapter on: “You are not Crazy. You’re just grieving.” Over the years, I have been amazed at how many times I’ve heard the words, “I thought I was going crazy. In a culture that values having things tied up in pretty little bows, grief catches us completely off guard. It is not pretty. It does not proceed in predictable stages In fact, it can feel so sweet one minute with precious memories flooding through our minds And then, it feels like a tidal wave trying to pull us under in the next moment. By participating in a group, we hear others sharing the twists and turns in their journey and it reminds us that as crazy as our journey may appear, it really is a journey towards healing.
On Care Night, we try to offer a variety of support groups. The topics change routinely depending on requests we receive It is important to check the Care Ministry page of the church website to find current groups The one group that does not change is “Hope & Healing.” You can find us meeting at 6:30 almost every Thursday evening. Feel free to drop in and treat yourself to some connection, accountability, and normalizing.
My prayer for you at this time is that, as MJ says, you have discovered that God does not expect you to do your journey alone. May you find your peace and hope in God.
See you next time.
- For more information about the benefits of a group: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/support-groups/art-20044655
- For more information on Dr. Alan Wolfelt and his Center for Loss: https://www.centerforloss.com/
- For the current list of Care Night Groups: plattewoodschurch.org/care
- To volunteer as a group facilitator or to request a new topic for a group please email Vicki Krehbiel.
How was your week of “Chocolate Soup Time” with God? I hope you found joy in the thought that the Creator of the Universe smiles when you take time to chat with Him.
We are going to refocus our thoughts today on Love. Early in my counseling career I was asked by a teenage girl what “love” is. She was sincere. She and her siblings had been removed by the state from their parents’ home. Knowing that, I still asked her who had tucked her in at night. Probably one of my greatest fumbles as a counselor. She not only could not answer my question, she did not even know what “tucked in” meant.
“It’s when a grownup carefully tucks all the covers around you in your bed so you feel safe and cozy,” I tried to explain. My thinking was, the extra care taken to make sure a child feels safe and cozy at bedtime is one act of love. It was a starting point, or so I thought.
Her response was to describe for me a world where children put themselves to bed and got themselves to school while the adults entertained themselves with drugs and alcohol. She did not have a starting point for me to build on.
That experience is probably why Care Night at Platte Woods UMC is so near and dear to my heart. No, we are not offering to tuck our neighbors in at night! We can however, provide a hearty meal of comfort food along with some fellowship. And if you choose to stay for a group or class, that’s awesome but not a requirement.
What is Care Night? I’m so glad you asked. It’s an idea we borrowed from the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. It is the one evening each week we set aside for renewing, restoring and rebuilding our mental, emotional and spiritual health. It is the evening we offer support groups and classes to meet these needs. Whether you are a church member or a community member or you just need some support, you are welcome.
Every Thursday we begin with a meal. The meal usually begins at 5:45 pm in our Dining Hall. Each week our volunteers prepare the best comfort food you can imagine. If possible, we appreciate a little notice that you will be coming and how many you will bring. Let’s say by Tuesday if you connect with me at email@example.com that would be helpful. If you forget to contact me, that’s okay. We look forward to seeing you. We appreciate donations too but they are not required.
At 6:30 our classes and groups begin. Each semester these change so you might want to check out the Care page on our website to make sure you get the latest information. We do offer a Hope & Healing support group in the prayer room that stays open for folks new to Care Night. It is led by our Counseling interns who are prepared to listen with warmth and acceptance. No matter what your latest challenge is, they are here to offer encouragement and support.
If your childhood experience was similar to the teenage girl who asked me about love, we certainly cannot replace what you have missed. On the other hand, a meal and support group may go a long way towards a new understanding of love. At least, it’s a starting point.
Welcome Back! I am grateful you chose to revisit the Counseling Blog.
On February 4, 2018, Pastor Britton Fields, our Director of Youth Ministry provided a thoughtful message on the “Fear of Isolation.” In his sermon he mentioned how God ministers to us through a “ministry of presence.” When we are feeling isolated, burdened or overwhelmed, we can trust that God is with us. What a powerful message! If you missed his sermon you can watch it here
Britton mentioned our Care Ministry Team and introduced myself and Pastor Nancy Liston, Pastor of Care Ministry. So much of what we do in Care Ministry is exactly as Britton described. We provide a safe space for those who are hurting to tell their story. Most of the time we are simply there to listen.
So, you may be wondering why the counselor who listens to other’s traumatic stories all week long has titled her blog “Chocolate Soup Time.” It’s related to a life lesson I learned just a few years ago. Spending time with God is not always a chore and it does not always have to be focused on the pain in our lives. Here’s how it happened.
When my grandson was barely two, his favorite activity with me was playing in a water table. He enjoyed filling and dumping and splashing and getting wet. One spring morning we were dumping and filling as usual and one of us started calling the water in our cups, “Chocolate Soup.” We filled our cups with Chocolate Soup. We stirred it carefully. Then we pretended we were drinking it. As the water trickled down our chins instead of going in our mouths, he started giggling. His pure delight was contagious. Before long I was giggling and laughing with him. Nothing else in the world mattered at that moment but the pure joy of spending time with him in laughter.
The next morning, I sat down to write in my prayer journal. As I took time to shut out the rest of the world and focus on God, it occurred to me that God was just as delighted to spend time with me as I had been to spend time with my grandson. That thought changed everything for me. It took more than 50 years and a grandchild for me to understand the depth of God’s joy when we take the time to focus on Him.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story about how the disciples tried to keep the little children from getting close to Jesus. Jesus scolded the disciples and said, “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” Matthew 19:14 (The Message)
Take a moment right now to soak this in. Take a deep breath. And picture this: God enjoys your presence. You can make God smile just by spending time with Him. Breathe that in. Breathe out your stress. Breathe in God’s smile. Breathe out isolation. That’s the message Jesus came to bring us. God is with us always. We just need to take time to notice Him.
During Lent, Pastor Jake has provided some special prayer times so we can notice God’s presence in our lives. Tuesday mornings, 9-10 a.m., and Thursday evenings, 6:30-8 p.m. You can pray on your own or with others. You can say a quiet prayer or choose to do a prayer station he has set up. Whatever way you choose just remember, you can make God smile!
Meet me here next week for more Chocolate Soup Time!
Welcome to the Counseling Blog for Platte Woods UMC. I am Vicki Krehbiel and I have worked for PWUMC for 16 years. I am currently the Director of Counseling.
I am also the “prodigal daughter” in my family. I decided to become a counselor following a season of rebellion in my life. In my early 20’s I rebelled against the traditions of the Mennonite faith I was raised in. As I questioned the “shoulds” and “oughts” of what I’d been taught I discovered my faith was something deep within me and I could not run away from it.
Even more profound was the discovery that God welcomed my questions. The more I asked, the deeper my connection. I’m not saying I always get answers. Just that the process of asking draws me closer as I learn more about who God is and what He wants from me.
Having that experience lends itself well to who I am as a counselor. I can hear the questions of others without having a knee-jerk reaction to fix things for them or give them my answers. I understand how important it is to find answers for yourself. Then your faith is your own, not a replica of anyone else’s. And your healing process is genuine.
To understand more about how our questions draw us closer to God explore the exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3 to 4:17. I find comfort in seeing that it takes God a chapter and a half to convince Moses to go lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In my life, that chapter and a half can translate into months and sometimes years of God coaxing me to take action.
Many of David’s Psalms also reflect the times when David himself questions God. Psalm 13 is a brief example. It’s a little like watching a TV sitcom because the story wraps up in 6 verses. Hear David’s questions.
- “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
- How long will you hide your face from me?
- How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
- How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13:1-2 (New Revised Standard Version)
Those questions sound familiar. If you’ve ever experienced grief and loss, depression, loneliness or chronic pain you know the questions personally.
David’s reassurances in verses 5 and 6 come much quicker than they do for most of us. Even so, David’s genuine faith can comfort us today. We can repeat David’s words of faith until they speak hope into our hearts.
“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6 (NRSV)
May David’s words speak hope into your heart. May you draw closer to God with your questions.