Thursday, December 15, 2016

Starry-Eyed by Mandy Arioto - an inspriational read!

The book Starry-Eyed by Mandy Arioto is a collection of essays about motherhood, friendship, relationships, and loving and seeing God through it all. It's almost like a less sappy version of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Arioto is the President of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International. She shares her experiences raising children as well as her experiences with many other moms to bring this love filled, life filled book to her readers. The essays include topics such as finding light in the dark times, finding courage and strength in friends, going back to nature, and teaching our kids to hear God. It is difficult for me to describe exactly what you will encounter in her book. Each essay brought different thoughts to mind for me and I am sure each would be a different experience for others depending on what they have gone through. Personally, reading about friendship and drawing strength from it made me realize why I often feel so weak. I don't have a lot of friends and it's important for me to be around friends and get that strength and courage back. The essay that really hit a strong point for me was finding the light in dark times. I have been through a lot of dark times myself and this essay really pinpointed how important it is to look for that light, that glimmer of hope, in every dark time that you go through. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I highly recommend this book to any mom out there who is looking for some inspiration to get through the day-to-day grind of motherhood, relationships, and life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from The BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 23, 2016

An instant pick-me-up with Think Happy!!

When I picked up Think Happy: instant peptalks to boost positivity by Karen Salmansohn, I felt happier just looking at the cover! The cover of this book is bright and colorful. It reminds me of rays of sunlight mixed with the colors of a rainbow. Every page of this book is filled with bold colors. There are several sections to the book that give peptalks of positive things to say. Some examples are "5 positive things to say when trying something new," "5 things to say when dealing with major challenges," and "5 things to say when dealing with toxic people". After reading one of my favorites in the toxic people chapter, I posted the quote on Facebook and my friends LOVED it! (I'll let you check out the book to discover what you think my favorite quote in that chapter was.) Not only does each chapter have a quote, but it has some tips that are based on that quote. This book can be used for personal use as well as professional use as a counselor. I know it helped me personally to read some of these affirmations, but I also know that some of these affirmations could also help people that I talk to that are dealing with crisis, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and many other issues in their lives. I am quite intrigued by this book and I'm interested in checking out some more of Karen Salmansohn's work. I have even followed her page on Facebook. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to increase the positivity in their life or someone else's life!

I received this book for free as a part of the Blogging for Books program with Penguin Random House and Crown Publishing Group. My opinions are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review: Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford

I have not experienced a lot of trauma in my life. Compared to most people, I've had it pretty easy. So when I picked up the book Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain Into Your Greatest Strength by Christa Black Gifford, I was looking at it more for clients I may encounter in the future. Little did I know how much this book would touch my life and how much insight I would gain from Christa's words.

Christa Black Gifford has been through a lot of trauma in her life. She suffered sexual abuse as a child, rape as a young adult, addiction, an eating disorder, and the loss of her infant daughter. Through it all, Christa has had to heal from these hurts. In this book, Gifford tackles these issues head on, exploring how she opened up her heart and let God in so her heart could be healed. Gifford explains what she went through and applies it to scripture. She shares her journey so that others can experience the healing of their hearts that comes through Christ.

Christa shares that trauma of the heart is not just the major trauma like abuse and death. Trauma can also be rejection, bullying, disease, and so many other things that can put scars on our hearts. Gifford's book encouraged me to open my heart to God, let him see my wounds, and let him heal these wounds. I especially liked the Open-Heart Surgery questions at the end of each chapter. They allowed me to delve more deeply into what was discussed and encouraged me to see what my heart was feeling and deepen my relationship with Christ. I recommend this book to anyone because we have all suffered some pain to our hearts and so much of it is still unhealed.

I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review of Grace by Max Lucado

Max Lucado's Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, is a book for Christians who seek to further understand what it means to experience God's grace in their lives as well as for non-Christians who do not yet understand how God has blessed us and saved us.
I have read quite a few of Max Lucado's books, but this one is by far my favorite. In his best-selling style, Lucado provides many examples of God's grace. He talks about how grace was shown in the Bible, in many examples of Old and New Testament scripture. He illustrates how these examples can apply to our own lives and how they have applied to the lives of people he knows or people in history. All of these examples serve to further illustrate something that is often hard for us to understand. Even though we are fallible, sinful, human beings, God has given us His Grace. He loves us so much, that He DIED for us. That is the grace he bestows upon each and every one of us. So if you are ever thinking that God does not show His grace in your life, read this book and remember - God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son!


I receive these books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review of Six Hours One Friday by Max Lucado

This post was originally posted on 01/31/13.

In Six Hours One Friday, Max Lucado explores Jesus' death and resurrection in a new way. Lucado retells some of the Bible stories we have heard over and over again with a new point of view. Jesus' death from the centurion's point of view, from the thief that hung on the cross next to him, from Mary Magdalene's point of view. Lucado's beautiful storytelling helps to illustrate how much Jesus' death meant and still means to us. Lucado also tells some other Bible stories such as Zaccheus, the adulteress that was almost stoned, and the Samaritan woman at the well. These are all people that were touched by Jesus' life. Lucado makes three key points, stating that Jesus' death and resurrection is our anchor in these three ways. Our lives are not futile. Our failures aren't fatal. Our deaths are not final. We live for Jesus, so our lives are not futile. They are not for nothing. Our failures aren't fatal. God will forgive us. Our deaths are not final. Jesus died for us so death does not have to be the end. This book really brings home why Jesus died for us and what it achieved. Though it is not my favorite Lucado book, it was a good read.

I receive these books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, July 9, 2016

What It's Like to be a Highly Sensitive Person with Depression

When I first identified some characteristics about myself that made me more sensitive to other's emotions, one of my friends told me I was an empath. What is an empath? Google identifies an empath as "a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual." I'm "paranormal"? I don't think of myself this way. Maybe I'm more of a "highly sensitive" person. This article from the Huffington Post identifies the characteristics of a highly sensitive person and sounds just like me.

These characteristics, in my mind, are what make me a great fit for the counseling profession. Many of the counselors and counseling students that I have met throughout my schooling have some of these characteristics as well. But how does I deal with feelings more deeply, being more emotionally reactive, and picking up emotional "vibes" from others when also trying to fight back the monster of depression? How do I separate my feelings from the feelings of others? How do I determine if it's my depression that is laying a weight on my soul or the depression of others?

For me, it has been about getting to know myself better. I have to do a lot of looking into myself, reflecting, meditating, and realizing what is coming from me and what is coming from someone else. This means that at times I have to separate myself from others. The support from my husband and his realization about my sensitivity helps as well. The recent events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting of police officers in Dallas has the internet reeling with negativity, anxiety, and tension. As a highly sensitive person, I found myself wrapped up in these feelings very quickly. I was pulled into arguments and discussions with people that really should not have mattered to me, people that are not a part of my life, that I would not be associating with at all if it weren't for Facebook. I started to talk to my husband about this negativity. His immediate reaction?
"You need to get off of Facebook."
So I did. But not for long. As a highly sensitive person, it's also hard for me to stay away. Not only do I feel more deeply, I sense others' pain and I want to do something about it. In these past few days, however, I have come to a realization. As a highly sensitive person, I need to remember that I am the most important person in my life. I need to focus on me and what makes me healthy first. I can't make anyone feel anything that they don't want to feel. If I let myself get wrapped up in the negativity and anxiety, that can turn into a depression trigger.

If you're like me and you get wrapped up in others' emotions, remember that it's ok to take a break. Take care of yourself. You deserve it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Review of "Unglued Devotional" by Lysa Terkeurst

This is a blog post I have moved over from my former blog from several years ago. This was originally posted on 02/17/13.

"Unglued Devotional" is a companion devotional to the book "Unglued" by Lysa Terkeurst. Maybe I would have liked this devotional better if I had read the book that it is companion to. I started reading this and my immediate thought was, "What is the point?" Where was the continuity within in it? It seemed to just jump from place to place and it didn't really seem that there was a clear topic for each day's devotional. Apparently, it's supposed to be about emotions and when you come unglued. Maybe that is why it didn't really "speak" to me. I don't often come unglued, at least anger wise or where I may hurt other people. Sometimes I get sad, but I would never think of myself as exploding. My recommendation is that if you do want to pick up this devotional, that you also read the companion book. Maybe this would have made more sense to me if I had read its companion book. I am starting to learn that I don't really like devotionals. When I read a book I like to be able to read as much as I want at once instead of just a few pages a day.

I receive these books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, July 1, 2016

Hope in Times of Despair

As a person who experiences occasional bouts of depression, I can sometimes struggle with the day-to-day. Sometimes, even just the bickering between my children, the messes they make, or the physical pains that I am going through can be too much for me. I just want to give up, crawl into bed, and sleep. But I know that my children depend on me so I must press on.

How do I find that strength to press on? I've tried so many things. I've tried talking to my friends, but the only friends I seem to have are on Facebook and this just tends to isolate me even more. I try to get out of the house and do something without my kids, but that's not always easy to do. My husband works so hard at his job that when he comes home he just wants to sleep. He doesn't want to go out. Finding a sitter is not always easy either.

Besides, these are just temporary fixes. What works for me every time? Turning to God.

In his book Transform Your Thinking, Transform Your Life, Dr. Bill Winston reminds us that our thinking will be transformed when we continually read the Word and fill our minds with God's Word. So when I am feeling down, I remember to do this. I read the Bible. I read books like Dr. Winston's book. I attend church services to fill my mind with God's Word. And I am comforted.

A friend of mine recently gave me the book God's Promises for Graduates as I was struggling through some tough times. I'd like to share a few of the verses with you that have brought me comfort lately.

I have a decoration in my home that includes the beginning part of this verse, so I always try to have it in my mind.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." Psalms 55:22

There are by far more where those come from, but I find that when I couple these verses with positive thinking, exercise, and a good night's sleep, I feel much better and I am able to move forward. Depression does try to press on sometimes, but the more I am in the Word, the more I am able to get through it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

VIP Very Influential Person: How to Influence with Vision, Integrity, and Purpose (A Review)

I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review.

VIP. When we read that abbreviation, we all think the same thing "Very Important Person". In a world where success is often determined by how "important" you are, how much money you make, and how many people know your name, the book VIP Very Influential Person: How to Influence with Vision, Integrity, and Purpose by O.S. Hawkins gives an entirely different perspective on the meaning of VIP. For Hawkins, VIP stands for Very Influential Person, and in this book he outlines how to be a person of influence. Becoming a person of influence means having a Vision. This means knowing what you want to accomplish. This can be a "mission statement" for your life or for your company if you are a business owner. Next, Integrity is an important part of being an influential person. People need to know that you are who you say you are and you're going to do what you say you're going to do. Finally, Purpose is a vital part of being a VIP. What does purpose mean? It means that you look to God to find the reason that you are here and that everything you do aims towards that purpose in your life.

Though it was a "dry" read for me at times, I think that was because I have heard messages like this before and they have been spoken. To me, a spoken word is so much more powerful. I'd love to have the chance to listen to O.S. Hawkins deliver these words in person.

Thinking on this book is part of what made me decide to change things up on my blog a bit. I want to write about mental health because that is my purpose. I want to share your stories and be of support to the bigger community. So, if you want to be a part of this, send me a message with your story!


Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Live In Fear: Mastering the Art of Freaking Out (Review)

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers and the BookLook Bloggers Programin exchange for my honest review.

The title of this book piqued my interest. As a new counseling professional, I am interested in reading books about mental health. When I read on and discovered that this book was about a pastor's struggle with a severe anxiety disorder, I knew I had to check it out. Pastor Lance Hahn has struggled with a severe anxiety disorder since childhood. Through this book, he talks about his struggle, what it means to be a Christian with an anxiety disorder, practical steps to help cope with anxiety through practical solutions such as medication, exercise, thought restructuring, and even maintaining a health diet to exploring scripture and what it says about worry. It's a misconception that people who struggle with mental health issues aren't strong in their faith, but Lance Hahn proves this wrong as he speaks about his struggle and how his faith has been made stronger throughout this struggle. Hahn makes sure to stress that he is not a mental health professional and anyone who is struggling should seek professional help while working through the practical solutions that he has found to be helpful as someone struggling with these issues. I highly recommend this book and I will keep it on my shelf to share with clients that may be struggling with these questions as well.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lessons I've Learned from Counseling

Before I decided to become a mental health counselor, I myself had undergone counseling on a couple of different occasions. First, as a child. I had a bit of trouble making friends and my parents took me to a counselor. Years later, as a young adult, I saw a counselor to help me with depression. I no longer see a counselor, though sometimes I think that it may be a good thing to do once in a while. I am able to manage depression myself using what I have learned from counseling along with my much stronger faith in God and prayer. Here are some things I learned from counseling.

- Every little thing that goes wrong is not the end of the world. Learn to choose your battles, when to let things go, and how to deal with the disappointments in life and you will be a lot happier. It's not always easy. It takes time. It's worth it.

- Complaining just bums you out more than anything. Stop complaining and do something about it!

- Good counselors are not there to give advice or tell you the answer. Good counselors will guide you to find it for yourself.

- Good counselors do not accuse you or blame you for all of your problems.

- The right counselor can help to empower you, strengthen your resolve, and provide you with tools to help you move on.

It's interesting to be on the other side of the couch, so to speak. But here I am. I'm waiting for the right opportunity to come along and meanwhile I'm continuing to learn all that I can so that I can be an effective counselor in the future.
Thank you for sharing my journey!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Case for Hope by Lee Strobel

I received this book from the BookLook Bloggers Program for free in exchange for my honest review.
It's taken me a while to write this review. I received this book before Christmas, got caught up in all the holidays, was working hard on my internship and finishing up school, and before I knew it my 3 months that I had to write the review had expired! Luckily, BookLook Bloggers knew I was good for my review and started my account back up again so I could post it. So, without further ado, here it is!

The Case for Hope by Lee Strobel explores the question, "Where can we find hope in a hopeless world?" These days, when we hear the hate spouted from the mouths of politicians, see the news of terrorist attacks across the world and even violence, homelessness, and heartache in our own city streets, it can be hard for some to find that hope. Some turn to other things for hope, but not of them can sustain them for long. Lee Strobel explores the Biblical basis for the case that our hope should be in The Lord. Strobel explores the hope of what Jesus did for us, dying on the cross and sacrificing himself so that we might live. He also relates many stories of people in his life who turned to Christ in their hour of need and found hope in the Lord. I highly recommended this book to anyone who is in doubt, from Christians who are having so much doubt that they are having trouble studying the Bible for the verses that may bring them hope to someone who has not even found Christ and needs somewhere to turn for direction. At the end of the book, Strobel offers a 30 Day Journey of Hope with a Bible verse to study each day to remember the hope that is in the Lord. This is a great book to anyone who wants to "look ahead with confidence and courage." The most profound thought that Strobel shares and that I took away from this book is the thought that we should take this hope out to the world. God died for all of us and this should be shared with everyone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Say Something!

This time of year, just a little over a week before Easter, 15 years ago, I was at the lowest point in my life. I had always been a little “down in the dumps” from time to time. I was sort of a pessimist. I complained a lot, didn't have many friends, and just kept to myself most of the time. I had someone I loved in my life, but we were in a long distance relationship. I was also away from my parents and I had started to push away the few friends that I had with my isolating behaviors.

It's been said that one of the first things to be affected in depression is one's perception. With me, this was absolutely true. I felt like my life was spiraling downward and out of control, but things were actually ok! I was doing well in college, getting good grades. I had a couple of great friends and I had a boyfriend and parents that loved me, even though they were miles away. So why did I feel so awful? I couldn't put my finger on it. I didn't know how to define it.

Until one day, my practicum supervisor (I was studying to be a teacher) pulled me aside after class. She wanted to speak to me privately. She asked me how my practicum was going. I lied and told her it was going fine when truly I felt that I couldn't handle it and I could barely drag myself to get out of bed every day. She asked me how I was feeling. I said fine even though I had been to the doctor recently trying to find out why I was so tired all the time. She looked, her eyes full of concern, and said, “It just seems to me that you are very very depressed.” That was the word. That was it. The truth hit. I began to cry, at first just a little, and then sobbing almost uncontrollably. She gave me some information about the student health center and help me set up an appointment to go see a counselor there.

I can't remember the name of that professor, but that first step; her ability to recognize the signs in me that I was denying in myself, set me on the path to recovery. If it weren't for that professor, I don't know if I would be here today. I hope that somewhere out there in internet land, this reaches her as a thank you. But even if it doesn't, I want her to know that I am thankful for what she did and said. You never know how your words may influence another. For me, her words set me on a path to recovery and eventually led me down the road to become a professional counselor. I encourage everyone to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of mental illness if you are concerned about a friend or a loved one. Let them know you are concerned. Sometimes it just takes a few words to change someone's life forever.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Word of Promise New Testament (Audiobook) - A Review

I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

I thought it would be a nice change of pace to review something different, an Audiobook! This is a review of an audio version of the New King James Version New Testament published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The Word of Promise is presented in "dramatic audio theater" and stars Jim Caviezel, the actor that played Jesus in Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, as Jesus. Other famous voices include Terence Stamp (General Zod in the old Superman movies, and more recently the YES Guru in Jim Carrey's Yes Man!) as the voice of God and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Brad Paisley's wife and star of the Father of the Bride movies) as the voice of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

I have to admit that I am not used to listening to the Bible, or audiobooks in general. I started listening half-expecting to be hearing biblical passages read and recited like they are in church. So, the drama of it threw me off a bit at first. But after a few minutes, I was pulled in. I was wondering how Jim Caviezel was going to present the voice of Jesus when he became angry, turning over the tables in the temple. I was wondering how Mary's voice would sound when she was morning the loss of her son. I was drawn in and I found that this was a new and different way to "read" the New Testament. It may be a great way to present the New Testament to children, who may have trouble reading the words presented in the Bible or have trouble paying attention. Listening to the Bible may be a great activity for families. They can listen to a passage and then talk about what happened, learning about Jesus as they go. I also gave an audio Bible as a gift to my mother-in-law, who would need a very large print Bible in order to read it and would probably have trouble turning pages. An audio Bible is a great tool for her and she was very happy to have one. This is a great presentation of the Bible with big name voice actors to boot! I recommend it!