Counseling Center for Living Well, PLLC

Counseling Center for Living Well and the office of Christina L Russell, LPC, NCC provides a Professional and Biblically Based Counseling services for individuals, couples and families desiring to discover the hidden treasure of true relationships and of living well

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Decisions

But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
Life is full of choices that often aren’t as clear as right and wrong. How do people make decisions? It seems we base our decisions on our most basic human nature, what we want. We don’t always feel that this is the case, especially if a choice is made with another person’s wants in mind. Even then, we may aim to feel good about making someone else feel good—a decision based on our own needs.
How can we make decisions that are genuine and pure? It helps to take a look at what our hearts are truly concerned about. As Christians, the greatest commandment to Love the Lord, is lived out through daily dependence on Him. It means our choices are laid at the feet of Jesus Christ, giving us the grace to live beyond our human nature. As brothers and sisters, the second commandment to love our neighbor as our self is lived out through the mercy we show one another, giving us the space to learn in our human nature how to love one another supernaturally.
When we seek to please another, we will often be internally conflicted. When we make a decision and lay it at the foot of the cross, we are not only dependent on and humbled by His grace, but also freed from all the voices and opinions related to our choices.
Today, are you battling with a decision? If so, can you take it to the cross? Release the emptiness of following a decision based solely in your human nature and embrace the Hope that comes from daily dependence on the Lord.
An Example:
Sally wanted to be at her 5 year old’s first ballet recital, her new job strongly encouraged her to attend a quarterly staff meeting, and her 10 year old was competing in the final championship soccer game of the year. She took it to the cross, admitting she wanted or felt she needed to be at all three, releasing her inability to do so, believing each situation was God’s not hers and made a choice to be at her 5 year old’s first ballet recital. Why? Well, she had reasons and desires, might have even leaned toward this decision in the beginning, or had some deep selfish reasons for doing so, but as she went before the Lord, she released the need to be superwoman or to understand every motive behind her choices and instead allow her dependency on God to break through those things that were basic human nature. She believed that God could point her in any direction He wanted her to be in and that He could meet the needs of each person or even of her own. She recognized that there may be “fallout” and that she may have to walk through a place of conflict with her work or her 10 year old. She believed that mercy was something she could show in these situations, even if they did not give it to her. She understood that we are all dependent on God and His grace is sufficient.

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Falling Out of Love

Dr. John Gottman reports that research shows most couples wait 6 years from the onset of marital problems, before seeking counseling. By the time a couple enters my office, I see years of built up resentment and contempt. Relationships in this condition often result in hearts that are hardened and afraid to love.
In comparison, scripture often tells the story of God’s people turning away from love, because of hardened hearts. In Chronicles 7:14, His people are invited to humility and a return to converse with God as they repent from sin. In the same way God’s people will to soften their hearts, so can an individual in a relationship that has grown cold. The central focus is on the individual person not what your spouse can do first for you.
Humbling yourself, opening your mind and heart to converse with your spouse again and checking your own bitterness at the door is the beginning of rebuilding love.
Example:
Jan and Dan met just out of college. Both ready to begin promising careers. Within a few months they knew they wanted to be married and six months later, they said “I Do.” The first two years of marriage both worked hard to secure employment and to advance their careers. Feeling positive about where they were at financially, they bought a house and soon after decided to try for a baby. By their 3rd anniversary, a new baby was on the way and their home was the start of what they’d always dreamed of. What wasn’t as hopeful was their relationship. Jan complained all the time, according to Dan, that he would never keep up with housework. She felt it should not be all on her, since she was working outside the home and about to give birth. Dan accused Jan of being too emotional and moody. He said he understood pregnancy and all of her responsibilities (usually in a sarcastic tone), but she made coming home a chore and certainly not the retreat he’d always imagined.
Both came to counseling believing if the other could just be kinder than maybe they could begin loving one another again. Although, they admitted they could change their own attitudes too, the other was really worse! After several sessions Dan decided to refocus his thoughts and prayers on his own way of viewing his wife. He began to imagine the way God saw her, through Christ and considered what it meant to love his bride as Christ loves the church. He stopped thinking about how things weren’t the way he wanted them to be. What followed surprised Dan. Not only did his heart begin to soften toward his wife, but he described a new sense of what it meant that Christ loves the church, that he is loved by God. Dan wasn’t looking for Jan to fill his heart with the kind of love and respect that he could experience with God. He didn’t give up hope that Jan could love him in this way, but he didn’t expect that she had to for him to be able to love her and for joy to be renewed in his life.
Interested in experiencing this kind of love? Giving it can be the start to knowing it in your relationship with the God who’s love endures forever.

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Staying together for. . . .

We are staying together for. . . . . Couples in conflict often say they would end their marriage if it were not for a number of different things ranging from kids to finances to values. In Christian counseling, couples often report to me their devotion to God as the reason they stay with their spouse. Whether it be for security or concern for others, values or commitments there is often an absence of true love in their reasoning.
Couples staying together for the kids don’t usually work to improve their marriage in order to be an authentic family. Couples staying together for finances don’t usually report feeling a great deal more secure than struggling singles I talk to. Most intriguing to me, is that couples desiring to please God by keeping their marriage together, often report feeling more and more distant from God and appear to be growing in hatred toward their spouse.
Is there ever a time that the above examples make it worth keeping a marriage together? Yes, but not with the usual intent and motivation. Parents, financial partners, and Christ followers, cannot honor these reasons for staying together without experiencing a deeper kind of love. This kind of love, Christ spoke of often when questions about the Law were presented. He showed a greater meaning beyond legalism such as in the examples of hatred as equal to murder and lust like adultery.
Staying together for anything other than a true love is masked legalism. Love, doesn’t have to feel a certain way nor be returned to be real in a marriage. Love, might look like an honest petition to God about your needs and desires, a careful reflection on what you and God can do to fulfill your needs, a concern for your spouses need for support and acceptance, and a letting go of what really is your spouse’s responsibilities to change and be changed by God. Love without an acceptance and petitions given without hope for your partner, leads only to resentment.
Examples:
Stella was tired of how distance Mark had become. He worked all the time and when he was home his new “way to relax,” took him further away from her. Mark’s business partner recently reintroduced him to smoking marijuana, something Mark had enjoyed in his younger years. Stella would try to talk with Mark about his work and her concerns regarding the marijuana. It was typically met with a blank stare, or ended with Mark commenting on Stella’s “pious attitude.” Stella had grown tired of trying, she couldn’t see any other reason to be with Mark, when it just felt they were roommates and he was wasting his life. However, her faith kept urging her to stay. So she did, not with hope that things would change, but dutifully and full of loneliness and bitterness.
Chandler came from the “perfect family.” Loving parents who balanced their care for him while encouraging independence raised him. He experienced his parents’ marriage as fulfilling and secure. When he and Lina began to fight, he worried what kind of life his children would have. His worry often took him to the worst-case scenario. After several attempts to get Lina to stop complaining, be happy about their life together and to recognize the agony they were putting their family through, Chandler tried one more thing—withdrawal. He busied himself with activities involving the kids, was cordial especially in front of the kids, but unattached when he was with Lina. He went straight to bed each night, well before Lina, using the excuse he needed extra rest in order to be his best tomorrow. Eventually, though the fighting returned. His anger at Lina had grown more through the distance; he could contain it no longer. As he spewed insults and accusations at Lina, and she at him, it all seemed irreparable. In a last attempt, Chandler asked Lina to go to counseling with him. He knew he didn’t want to reconnect, but he did still fear that their fighting and even worse divorce would be devastating to their children.
Through a careful examination of his thoughts and emotions, Chandler began to share his original fears with the Lord. As he allowed the fear to subside, he was able to find ways he could engage with Lina that showed her he accepted her. He realized he could not change her and that he had not been as much concerned for her and her relationship with the Lord as he was about the impact of their fighting on the kids. It led to a more sincere prayer life and willingness to be connected and supportive. He recognized it was better to be responsible for his part in their conflicts and to release Lina to God with hope for change that would increase the love she felt from God.

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