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Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Was last year tough?  Did it seem like you had more steps backward than forward?  Did you feel alone in the struggle?   

God promises to lead you down a path when you cannot see in the darkness.  If you are confused or lonely or afraid, He will lead you forward if you look to him.  I remember going to a cottage of a friend of ours that was in the deep woods.  If you came in at night you had to park your car and then walk a long narrow path through the woods.  It was so dark your eyes would not adjust to the sky so you could see where you were going.  The only thing that was visible was the next step lit by a flashlight.  After stepping over rocks, roots, and along the path, eventually we would make it to the front porch of the cottage.  This experience really helped me to understand the above verse.  Sometimes you really cannot see where God is taking you, and it seems dark as night in the woods.  Only He can guide your footsteps.  

Prayer;  Lord, help me to look to you to light my life path when I cannot see where I am going.  Help me not to get distracted by things going on around me.  Help me not to give into despair but to trust that you are taking me to a better place.  

by Gretchen Flores

Is it Just Worry or Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

In today's world we have a lot to be worried about; job loss, bill payments, rising grocery costs, keeping our children safe, and keeping up with everything on our plates all while maintaining a smile in public.  Some of us are chronic worriers and some not.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition of chronic worry.  It occurs when our worries never seem to subside.  An ongoing wave of anxious thoughts and behaviors invade our lives daily and we may struggle to let go of them.  My counseling intern, Jill Oulman, Unlicensed Psychotherapist, who will be completing her counseling degree in the next few months, wrote a few thoughts on Generalized Anxiety.  I thought that I would share them with you.  

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By Jill Oulman

It can be easy to confuse Anxiety for Depression.  Both affect one’s ability to concentrate, both affect mood, often both anxiety and depression affect sleep, and with both disorders one can appear agitated or restless.  Because anxiety is a part of natural human existence, it can be something many individuals brush off as normal.  When it begins to affect their daily lives, they assume it must be something more severe than anxiety.  Many people assume they are depressed and seek help because they cannot deal with their feelings of hopelessness.

By properly assessing the condition as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the therapist can work to teach the client tools to reduce anxiety and feel in control again.  Human beings are programmed with a fight-or-flight mechanism.  In an individual with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, that mechanism can be faulty and the body is not able to restore itself to a decreased state of adrenaline once that mechanism has been activated.  Often the feelings of anxiety are automatic and not controlled by the client.  Using relaxation techniques can be an effective management tool for the client to restore order to their day.  

When patients can be taught techniques to help themselves, it brings the focus of control from external to internal.  That may be the most important skill as often patients feel as though the source of their anxiety is beyond their control.  This lack of control is what worries them the most.  Enabling clients to have control over their treatment can be a first step in healing.  The therapist can allow the client to focus on controlling their environment instead of the other way around.

Many individuals live with anxiety but it can be

by Gretchen Flores

Christmas Faith

After writing on the F’s of holiday stress (Frenetic Activity, Family Issues, & Finances) I realized I missed the most central F in the positive list I provided; Flexibility, Focus, Fun and now Faith.  Faith is what Christmas is.  Many of us celebrate Christmas for a wide range of reasons some that have nothing to do with faith.  Yet, faith in a God who came down to live amongst us is what Christmas is at it’s core.  

Sure Santa seems jolly and generous but he has been known to give out coal if you are bad, or to take you off his list if you haven’t done your chores.  He represents conditional love, or love based on how good you are.  

Jesus, on the other hand, came to save us all no matter what we have done.  If we have stolen, lied, cheated, gossiped or even murdered, his gift of grace is still available to you.   Many say, “I have been good enough, certainly his salvation is available to me.”  but that statement misses the point by a long shot.   The point isn’t being “good enough.” The point is that

by Gretchen Flores

How to Find Balance

Imbalance Causes Strain:

Balance is one of the biggest challenges in today’s society.  Striving for it is a challenge worth pursuing.  Imbalance comes when we spend too much time, effort, or thought on something that steals time away from other important things in our life.  When we are overly focused in one direction, other areas of our lives suffer.  Pressures to perform at work, our own perfectionism, demands from others can all create a lack of balance.  Imbalance in our lives can cause incredible strain.  It can also lead to burnout. 

Is there imbalance in your life?  Are you weighted too heavily in one direction or another?  If so, what can you do to change it? 

Ask Questions:

Start by asking a series of questions;  What is it that has fallen off the back of the truck while you have been so busy pursuing other goals?  What is it that you want to have back in your life?  What are the things that drain you?  What are the things that revive you?  Is where you are headed so important that you don’t have time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life?  How do you slow down enough to regain perspective on what truly is important and find the balance to maintain it?  

Follow Through on Change:

Once you have asked the questions needed to see what needs to change you need to change.  Asking the questions isn’t enough.  You must actively shift your priorities back to what is essential; time with family, time with friends, time with your spouse or your children.  Rest time is essential to recover from the burden of stressors in our day to day lives.   Rest can include sleep, relaxing, time doing something that you enjoy doing such as reading, fishing, calling a good friend. 

Why is this so important?  Because life can slip away when we are too busy chasing dreams.  Sometimes when my daughter looks at me with her large beautiful eyes and says, “Mom play with me,” I have to stop and consider what is most important at that moment.   Knowing she will soon be asking for the car keys instead of asking to play, I stop and get on the floor and play with the paper dolls for a moment and savor every moment of it.  Dishes may sit in the sink, work projects are calling my name, but I choose to let the world stop for a moment and savor a piece of heaven to bring the balance back.  What or who is it that you need to pay more attention to?  What do you need to pay less attention to in order to accomplish that. 

Stop for a minute and savor a moment of life.  Let the harried pace slow down and do the work to keep a balance in your life.  Perspective on what is truly important to you helps to focus your time.  Stop and consider what needs to change.  You will be happier and more fulfilled.                                                                      

by Gretchen Flores

What I Learned From Adrenal Fatigue; A Faith Perspective (part 2)

Before I experienced burn out 10 years ago, I thought I was super spiritual.  I never ever missed church.  Even a Chicago blizzard couldn't keep me away from Sunday am church. I arose early to shovel my way out and brave the snow covered streets to get to church on time.  Truth was, I loved going to church.  I rarely missed my small group bible study and I always kept my commitments.  If I said yes to something (and I said yes to most things) I showed up.  I showed up even if I had a splitting headache, a stomach ache, or little sleep.

I never said it, but I looked down on people who only showed up to church occasionally thinking they were lazy.  I took great pride in my faith and my works oriented approach.  Very dutifully I went above and beyond what was expected of me and I thrived on it.   Sometimes, I got a rush out of it.  Little did I know I was soon headed for a downfall.  God was going to allow me to experience severe burnout (see also previous post on Adrenal Fatigue). 

After I burned out, I could no longer keep up with my own pace even if I tried.  Exhausted and depleted, I was forced to become what I had looked down upon.   I was forced to be the person who missed church, who stopped going to bible study, who said no to everyone who asked me to do something.  Or worse, just didn't show.  The life I had thrived on was gone. 

The Shift
Something important shifted in me and I became a more gracious person toward those I had failed to understand.  Pride was replaced with understanding, and arrogance with compassion.  Where I had  failed to comprehend what kept people out of church I now understood.  I became less judgmental toward the occasional church goer...shoot, I became one.

God had taught me an important spiritual lesson that his love and acceptance doesn't come from works.  It truly is his free gift.  He had allowed me to come to the end of myself to find him there ready to hold my weary body in his loving arms.   In his arms, just resting, I found relief and restoration.  The biggest surprise was acceptance and love from the one I thought would tell me to get up and do more.  I gained a new perspective and learned how to receive God's grace.

Verses for Consideration
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  Lamentations 3:22

Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:4-9 (from

by Gretchen Flores