Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Grocery Store Christmas

This is an article I wrote for the Winter issue of Hometown Clinton Magazine. I hope your day is full of too much food, fun with family, and remembering the real reason we have to celebrate. Merry Christmas! 

 When I was young, each year for Christmas my dad received a $100 gift certificate to an old grocery store as a part of his Christmas bonus. When he got home from work at lunchtime on Christmas Eve he, my mom, my little sister, and I would excitedly get in our car and make the 20 minute trip through the country to the store, playing Christmas carols and laughing as we drove. Once we arrived, the four of us rushed around picking out our favorite treats, planning the special snacks we wanted to make, and ultimately purchasing more impractical food than we would have dreamed of doing any other day of the year. The four of us would drive back home looking forward to spending Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. 

 To this day my family continues this tradition. The old grocery store has closed, the gift certificate is no longer part of my dad’s bonus, and my husband now joins us for this odd ritual that we look forward to with such anticipation. I feel sure a Christmas Eve grocery trip is not high on most people’s list of fun and exciting Christmas traditions, but for us it is a chance to slow down, spend time together, laugh, and remember the things that are important. “Grocery Store Christmas” did not come wrapped in a box, it was not fancy, and it certainly was not Pinterest worthy, but the lesson of learning to slow down and enjoy my family during the busiest time of the year is one of the greatest gifts my parents have ever given me. 

 The older I get, the busier the holiday season seems to become. There are parties to attend, foods to prepare, houses to decorate, and gifts to buy. This can be accompanied by a crushing pressure to do things just right-to create “perfect memories”. We may end up spending more money and time than we can afford, and on December 26th we are left feeling exhausted and like we missed something. There are many instances when we may feel tempted to spread ourselves too thin, but this is never truer than during our holiday season quest for perfection. It can feel difficult, even impossible, to find the space to slow down. 

 What if we did things differently this holiday season? What if we eliminated the pressure for perfection and intentionally left space for slowing down? What if we made extra room for relaxing with family, visiting with neighbors, and remembering the true reason that we have to celebrate on Christmas day and every other day of the year? My guess is that we’d feel a little more full on December 26th- full of joy, full of peace, and full of “Grocery Store Christmas” memories.

Friday, September 12, 2014


As a counselor, something I have been thinking about lately is the number of people I know who feel alone.  Whether it be due to a busy schedule, moving to a new place, changing seasons of life, or intentionally withdrawing from others, many people feel like they are lacking a deep sense of connection with the people around them.  Spending time alone is a healthy and necessary part of life; however, it can become unhealthy when a person spends so much time alone that they begin to feel lonely and isolated from others. 

Social isolation can lead to increased anxiety and depression.  If a person doesn’t have positive relationships in their life they miss out on having people to encourage them, to remind them when they’re not thinking clearly, or to lift them up when they’re feeling down.  They miss out on having people to celebrate with in times of happiness and to cry with in times of sadness.  Most of all, they miss out on having people to enjoy everyday life with. 

God did not create us to be alone.  He created us to be in community with other people: to laugh together, to eat meals together, and to support each other in reaching our goals.  To sit in hospital waiting rooms together when times of sickness come, to dance together at weddings, to wait on new babies to be born together, and to mourn together in times of loss.  To build each other up and to be better people because we know each other.  I am quite certain that friendship is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. 

I’m so thankful to have so many special people in my life:

We celebrate weddings... babies...

...and even athletic endeavors. 

We drive great distances to see each other...

...and like each other because we want to and not just because we're sisters.

Finding community can be so difficult.  It’s intimidating, and it doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, effort, and stepping out of our comfort zone.  Some ideas for connecting with others:

  •  Put effort into the friendships that you have! Be the one to initiate spending time together, take the time to meet for dinner even though you have other things you “should” be doing, call and text the friends that live out of town.  Take a break from your to do list and spend time maintaining friendships. 
  • Be a good friend.  Remember birthdays, help your friends when they need it, do the things you want people to do for you.  Be reliable, trustworthy, and a good listener. 
  • Take the time to make small connections, like learning the name of the girl who makes your coffee every day.  Small steps like these can make you feel more connected to your community. 
  • To meet new people, join a small group Bible study or Sunday school class.  It might sound cliché, but it’s a great way to make connections.
  • Take a class, join a sports team, get involved in an organization, or volunteer your time.  These are great ways to meet people who share your interests.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks.  If you meet someone you get along well with, don’t be afraid to ask that person if they want to get coffee or have dinner with you.  Have a group of people over to your house.  It doesn’t matter if your home and your food aren’t fancy-fancy things typically make people nervous anyway.  
  • Pray for God to bring community into your life.  Seasons of loneliness are going to come for all of us, but God hears our prayers and knows our hearts.  He cares about the details of our lives. 

Doing these things can be scary and even a little awkward, but having people to share life with is worth the effort.  To my people: Thanks for walking with me through the best of times and the worst of times and choosing to like me anyway.  You make life the best.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Puppy Love

We have a new friend at our house.

Meet Mr. Charlie. 

We got Charlie back in July, so this picture is actually a couple of months old.  Charlie is a Mini Australian Shepherd.  Let it be known that I wanted a calm, peaceful dog.  In fact, I wasn’t totally certain that I wanted a dog at all.  But my husband, Will, desperately wanted a large, frightening beast of a dog, so Charlie was our compromise.  He has not come without his share of trials.

Charlie loves to make a mess.  His skill in this area is shocking.  This little dog can take a roll of toilet paper, a red plastic cup, a pen, a piece of typing paper, really any destructible object, and use said object to destroy a room in literal seconds.  It would be impressive if I didn’t have to clean up the mess. 

Charlie can be very rowdy at times.  My home used to be a place of calm and peace, but now it is full-time loud.  He runs, he jumps, he chases cats, his energy knows no limits.  If only I had a small percentage of his energy.  I took him running with me the other day, and at the end of the run one of us felt woozy and the other was ready for more.  I will leave it to your imagination to guess which of us was feeling what. 

Charlie forgets the Rules of Good Behavior at times.  He wants to be good, I know it.  He does a great job of listening sometimes, especially if the listening involves him getting a treat.  But at other times his puppy nature gets the best of him and he just has to be bad.  His fellow pet peers are suspicious of him. 

Charlie rejects my love sometimes.  I try to hold him and he tries to bite my ear.  I try to rest on the couch beside him and he tries to chew my hair.  Charlie is my first inside dog and he is only 3 months old, so I think it’s safe to say that we both have a lot to learn. 

The thing is, despite Charlie's behavior problems, I have come to love him.  He is so sweet, so smart, and he wants to follow me everywhere I go.  He is great at learning tricks and makes the cutest faces.  He is always in a great mood and loves to have fun.  No matter how much of a mess he makes, no matter how much he does not listen, no matter how many times he bites my ear, I cannot stop loving this dog.

The other night Charlie was still and quiet for an entire 30 seconds, and I was reflecting on how surprised I am that I have developed unconditional love for a dog that I wasn't sure I even wanted.   Then I had the ultimate cheesy-but-true thought: I am so thankful that God still loves me even when I make a big mess and do not listen.  I am so glad that His love is unconditional.  Because I, like my friend Charlie, am great at messing things up at times.  I'm so thankful that I can be certain God loves me despite this.  This is, of course, not a new idea for many of us, but for some it may be.  Even for those of us who grew up in church, it's easy to forget at times.  But it is one of the most important things that we can know and be reminded of, even if a silly puppy is the reminder.

And as for me and Charlie? I think we are well on our way to being best friends forever. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Life's Messes

My husband and I moved into a new house this month.  And it is a MESS. 

There are still boxes everywhere.  We didn’t have time to pack in a neat, orderly way like I wanted to, so the boxes are full of random, unlabeled things.  I don’t quite know the perfect places for things yet, and sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for. 

The house was built in the 80’s, so it needs a lot of cosmetic work.  We are getting started on that this week, but for now the walls are the most dreadful brown/tan/mustard color.  My friend and I painted three of my four bedroom walls last weekend (have not successfully finished wall number four yet) and based on this experience, I can say with a fair level of confidence that it’s going to be a while before the whole house is freshly painted.

Because I’ve been waiting on some remodeling to be done I haven’t put out any decorations yet, so things look empty and messy at the same time.  My backyard landscaping consists of a hole my puppy has dug right in the center of the yard.  The house does not smell like home.   But, despite these things, when I look around I can see the wonderful potential. 

I can imagine how it will look with a wall knocked down, a new floor, new paint, and with our decorations and special things put in just the right places.  But, much more importantly, I can imagine it being a place that is filled with friends, laughter, and happiness.  Somewhere people can come wearing what they want and where it’s ok to accidentally spill something.  A home that people leave feeling a little more full of life than when they came.  That time isn’t here for my house yet, but I know it’s coming.  

Life’s messes, especially during seasons of change, can feel a bit like my house does right now.  Whether it’s a new job, a big move, a new house, a new baby, a friend moving away, or whatever other changes we are going through, life after a change  can feel unsettling and messy at first.  Things are new, we may not know where we belong, and we may feel like we can’t find what we are looking for right away.  Things might seem like they need a LOT of work to ever be good, and we may feel unsure of where to start.  We may miss the smell of the old place that was comfortable. 

But if we look hard, and perhaps from a different perspective, we will be able to see the potential in our new situation.  How it’s a chance to start fresh, to clear out the clutter, to learn, and to grow.  Perhaps it’s a chance to leave old bad habits behind and do things a new way.  Life may have changed and the situation might be new and unfamiliar, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be good. 

I’m learning that just because our house is a mess doesn’t mean that it can’t be a good place.  We can still invite friends over, I can still cook for people, and we can still laugh here, even if we have brown mustard walls and unfortunate light fixtures. Life is like this-even if things are unfamiliar, out of place, and unsettled, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t good to be found right now.  I think we just keep moving forward, keep trying to see the good, and keep on growing.  And maybe before we know it, that new house will start smelling like home. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Counseling?

"So what kinds of things do people come to you to talk about?"

“I could NEVER talk to a counselor.”

“Do you really think you can fix people?”

I get questions and comments like these pretty regularly.  People are intrigued by the mystery of what goes on in my office.  The truth is I have heard my share of sad stories.  Clients have told me about heartbreaking situations and devastating ways that they've been hurt by others, and I always feel honored when people trust me enough to share these experiences.

However, other clients are coming to counseling for what I call "everyday life problems"- too much stress, a time of sadness that won't go away, a season of anxiety, a lack of direction, difficulty adjusting to a new situation, and a multitude of other situations.  These situations can be very painful, and I feel honored when people trust me with them as well. 

Sometimes people have the idea that an issue has to be "bad enough" to qualify for counseling, as if a counselor would consider them silly for coming to talk about the thing that is bothering them.  On the other hand, some people think that their situation is so bad, so shocking, or so shameful that they could not imagine sharing it out loud with another person.  The truth is that any situation causing a person pain or keeping them from living a full and happy life is a reason to seek counseling.

The decision to attend counseling is one that a person has to make for his or herself.  No one can force you to do it, and you can’t force it on anyone else either.  Certainly parents can force it on a teenager, but even then the process  goes significantly better if the teenager comes around to the idea.  This isn’t always the case, but people don’t usually stick with counseling if it isn’t a decision they have made for themselves. 

Is counseling a magic cure for life’s problems? Certainly not.  Is it a quick fix? Nope.  Do counselors know all the answers? If only that were the case.  However, the counselors that I know do try to help and encourage people the best they can.  For me, it is very important that people feel comfortable in my office, that they recognize it to be a place where they can be honest and know they will not be judged.  I cannot “fix” anything, but I can walk alongside someone and offer a new perspective. Ultimately, I want clients to feel better and to grow as people.  The combination of these two things help clients feel equipped to handle their struggles on their own. 

If you’ve considered seeing a counselor, I encourage you not to let fear hold you back.  I cannot promise that it will solve all your problems, but I can say with confidence that I have seen it help many people.  If you want more information about the counseling process, please feel free to contact me!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I recently had the opportunity to speak to two different groups about setting healthy boundaries.  The first group was the Pinelake Resevior Campus MOMs group and the second was Mississippi Hands and Voices, an organization for parents of children with hearing loss and and those who work with children with hearing loss.  I really enjoyed both of these experiences, and in preparing I spent quite a bit of time learning and thinking about healthy boundaries. 

So what are boundaries? There are a multitude of complex definitions out there, but to me setting healthy boundaries is just this-setting some limits in your life in order to take care of yourself and protect the things that matter most to you.  There are tons of areas where one will benefit from setting up some boundaries-boundaries with yourself, boundaries with your relationships, boundaries with your finances, and many more.  Today I'm mainly writing about an area that is relevant to many people, boundaries with your time. 

We live in a world that is busy, busy, busy.  No matter your stage of life, there is probably a good chance that you have a lot going on.  Whether you are a student, working, a parent, or a combination of one or more of these things, most people have to work hard to balance it all.  And many of us spend a good bit of time giving to others in some way-volunteering, helping out at your kid’s school or with your kid’s activities, serving at church, helping others with their problems, taking care of your family- the list of ways we can give of ourselves is endless.  Giving of yourself and your time is a great thing! God calls us to be giving in so many ways.  However, the problems start coming when we give away so much of our time than we have none left to take care of ourselves.  The combination of all of these things can lead to a person feeling overwhelmed, in a constant rush, and like there isn’t enough time in the day.  It’s not bad to be busy; in many ways busyness to a healthy extent is good for you.  But if some of these things are happening, you might be overdoing it:

·         You start to dread, or even feel bitter, about your responsibilities or meetings.

·         You are overwhelmed and exhausted all the time.  Tasks that seem normal cause you to feel like you might fall apart.

·         Your relationships seem out of control.  You know some things need to change, but you aren’t sure what.

·         Nothing feels fun, everything just feels like another thing to check off your list. 

The topic of boundaries comes up A LOT in counseling.  For a lot of different reasons, many of us just have trouble saying “I can’t do that this time," “I’m not going to be able to make it," “I won’t be able to help with that," or the really difficult one “NO." I have trouble with it myself.  Sometimes I just have a hard time telling people no if they need my help.  Even if I know I don’t have time, even if the request is a little ridiculous, I just have a hard time saying no if someone needs me.  Sometimes I end up making my life difficult because I say yes to too many good things.  Because too many good things is still too many things!

What I’ve come to learn from counseling and from my own life is this: We are in no way made to do it all.  If we don’t have any boundaries in our lives, we eventually become overwhelmed, exhausted, and probably grouchy.  A lack of healthy boundaries can make life seem out of control and can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and can ultimately steal joy from you and keep you from being the person you’re trying so hard to be. 

So how do you begin to set some boundaries? Here are some basic ideas that can be good starting points:

·         Set aside some specific time each day to spend relaxing the way you relax best.  Maybe this time can be right after work, maybe it’s while your kids are napping, or maybe you’ll have to get up a little earlier or stay up a little later to do it.  Figure out what works for you and be protective of that time. 

·         Consider your priorities and the way that you spend your time.  Does the way you spend your time really represent what is most important to you? Are you doing some things out of a sense of obligation that you don’t feel particularly called to or enjoy? Make a list of your activities and responsibilities.   Some things you probably have to do, but does anything need to go?

·         DO NOT compare your busyness to other peoples! Comparison is a game that you will always lose.  Besides, you can’t ever know what is really going on in another person’s heart or home. 

·         If you do decide you need to set some limits in certain areas or with certain people, share your thoughts with a trusted friend who will help hold you accountable to your decision.

·         Remember, setting boundaries is not bad or mean!  It’s something that you have to do in order to keep yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy. 

These are just a few of my thoughts on boundaries, but there is so much information available on this topic! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can point you to any resources.


Thanks for Listening,












Sunday, February 9, 2014


I know I said I was planning to talk about boundaries next, but a story came to me and I wanted to share it with you.  

During 2013, a few of my friends and I participated in a Beth Moore scripture memorization event.  This was the first time that I've ever memorized scripture in a disciplined way, and it's hard to really explain how much it meant to me.  I memorized a lot of verses that I've always kind of known, but didn't know exactly, and I also memorized a good number of verses that pertained to different things that I went through during the course of the year.  As a counselor, I know quite a few tools for fighting fear and anxiety, but I can truly say nothing has ever helped me personally the way memorizing scripture did.  Those verses hid themselves in my heart and they continue to pop right up just when I need them.  The incentive for this particular memorization program was the opportunity to attend a Beth Moore conference for the price of FREE this January.  So a few weeks ago Susan, Lesley, Emily, and I headed to Houston to hear what Beth had to say.  

I am typically pretty diligent when it comes to making preparations, but this event came after a very busy week, so I just gathered my things and got in the car that Friday afternoon in a bit of a rush.  I hadn't really thought much about how long the car ride to Houston was going to last due to being limited on my time that week,  but for some reason I assumed it was an hour or two past Baton Rouge, where we would be stopping to pick up our friend Emily.  

Somewhere along the way we encountered a POSITIVELY DREADFUL traffic jam situation that greatly lengthened the time of our trip.  It involved a detour through some unchartered territory on the back roads of south Louisiana, but Susan was able to carry us through with her excellent navigating skills. It was sometime around this point that I realized Houston is, in fact, four and half hours away from Baton Rouge. I then realized things weren't looking so good for our arrival time.

We finally made it to Baton Rouge, where we acquired both Emily and dinner from Chick Fil A.  We were already starting to feel weary, but we had told Beth we would be there (via electronic sign up, of course) so on we pressed.  Now let it be known, the group of ladies I was traveling with is no stranger to the late night road trip.  However, road tripping is all fun and games until you have risen at 4:30 am and worked many, many hours the week prior to your travels.  We visited very hard with each other like good friends do, and when my eyeballs started rolling back in my head it was time to pull out the music.  Obviously, our soundtrack of choice consisted of a nice combination of Garth Brooks Greatest Hits, One Direction, and Steven Curtis Chapman.  With Garth on our side we were able to arrive safely at our hotel at the wee hour of 3  am.  I think it's very safe to say that we were the last conference attendees to fall asleep that night, as the ladies who attended this event didn't really strike me as a late night bunch. 

We rose to greet the day what felt like moments after falling asleep, got ready, and headed to the church.  A fun fact is that to say we were among the youngest ladies present is a severe understatement, but we just took this as a sign that we were among women of wisdom.  Now let me say this-I did not grow up knowing who Beth Moore was.  I think I might have heard of her after changing churches in late high school, but I didn't really know who she was until the past few years.  I've done a couple of her studies and really enjoyed them, but I've never heard her speak, so I didn't really know what to expect.  But what a word she brought. 

Here comes the important part of this nonsense.  Beth spoke about memory that day, and while I am still processing many things that she said, one specific verse stood out to me:

I will remember the deeds of The Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  
Psalms 77:11

I first came across this verse when I was reading a book last summer, and it has become a favorite for me. The whole chapter is about a person who is in a bad place and feels alone, but chooses to remember the deeds of The Lord.  I love the straightforward and simple idea of remembering the things that The Lord has done for me.  When I am waiting, waiting, waiting on The Lord or when trusting gets hard I like to think back on the uncountable ways He has come through for me.  The simple things I might have taken for granted, the things I pleaded for, the times He surprised me by giving me what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted, the times He saved me from making huge mistakes, and the times He blessed me with immeasurably more than I could have ever hoped or imagined.  And when I do this, I know for so many reasons that He will never leave me.  

The rest of our big weekend passed in a blur of a much needed nap, a slightly overwhelming trip to Ikea, an abundance of Tex-Mex, and large quantities of laughter.  I feel thankful for friends who are like family and a God I can count on always.  

I've been doing too much worrying and not enough remembering lately.  This week, I will work on the remembering. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Something New

Hi, I’m Whitney.  I’m so glad you’ve stopped by my blog today! Recently several people have asked me, “What if you started a blog?” and it’s something that I was a bit hesitant to do.   But after spending some time thinking about it I realized that this might be a good way to share some of the things that I’ve learned and that are on my mind. 

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor, and while counseling is many things, it is NEVER boring.  I’ve worked with everyone from small kids to adults, and I’ve helped people going through all kinds of different issues.  I’ve seen people from a variety of different populations, and I’ve come to be certain about this:  Hurting isn’t easy for anyone, no matter how old you are, the color of your skin, or how much money you have.

How I came to be a counselor is a long story, perhaps for another post, but I know it’s what I was made to do.  I’ve always loved connecting with people, a fact that I’m sure many of my past teachers can attest to (it’s possible that I’ve been called Chatty Cathy more than once in a classroom setting).  I come from a family that loves visiting, so I come by this honestly.  As a child and teenager I loved big groups of people, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to really love sitting down with one person or with a smaller group and connecting with others on a personal level.  Something in me just is not satisfied with surface level relationships.  It’s important to me to know people, not to just know about people, but to really know people.  To know what’s in their heart, what they love, and the parts of their story that make them who they are.  To me, counseling is just a natural extension of this. 

When I was thinking about a theme for this blog, I quickly thought about the idea of taking life one day at a time.  This is a topic that comes up in many of my counseling sessions.  I often find myself saying things like:

 “I know you don’t know what’s going to happen next and that’s hard, but try to take this a day at a time.”

“This didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t fix itself overnight.  You’re doing your best, just take it a day at a time.”

“I understand this is something you’re looking forward to, but don’t rush it.  Just take it a day at a time and it will get here.”

“This is a hectic season for you.  Try to take things a day at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.”

 Taking things a day at a time is not always what we want.  That method is slow, and we like things to happen quickly and on our time.  We want the things that we’re excited about to get here soon, and the seasons that we don’t enjoy to be over quickly.  I myself am a champion planner, and I start thinking about things LONG before they happen.  Quite often this can be a good thing, but sometimes I spend so much time thinking about things that I am looking forward to that I forget to enjoy today.  On the other hand, sometimes I spend so much time asking myself “what if” about the future that I find myself worrying about things that might not ever happen. 

The thing is this: We are not made to try to take on life all at once.  It overwhelms us.  God made us to trust Him day by day, because if we don’t we might miss what He is trying to teach us, even during the hard times.  I hope this blog can remind me to slow down and really think about what God is teaching me, one day at a time. And I hope maybe I can share some things that will be helpful or encouraging to someone else. 

I plan to write about a good combination of serious topics and lighthearted topics, because really, the world is serious enough and I just need to laugh sometimes.  Next up I’m going to be writing about setting some good boundaries with yourself and with your time.  I hope you’ll stop by and check it out!

Thanks for Listening,