Heading to Alex and Jasmine ‘s wedding

We are excited to be heading to Florida for Alex’s wedding. They have been making plans since the first of the year. They are deeply in love with each other. They are basing their marriage on their Christian Faith and want to apply it to their relationship.

We got to spend sometime with them in January and I could tell how well suited they are for each other.

We decided to drive down and are heading to Tupelo Mississippi today.

Our rental car.

Mark Smith


The suffering of others 

Suffering.jpgThere is a great exhibition of photography from the Great Depression now showing at the Nelson Atkins here in Kanas City.

Note the body abandoned on the steps of this church.

Anyone who lived through the depression was emotionally shaped by the economic hardships most families faced. My mother told me she remembered eating cooked rotting potatoes and being left alone at a young age while her mother worked. In her old age she was something of a food hoarder.



Making your road map to retirement

Making your road map to retirement

Making your road map to retirement

I am not going to even try to address the issues related to saving for retirement there are many good books and financial advisors out that can give you much better advice than I can.

Retirement is the chance to start fresh

Imagine looking at a globe of the earth and realizing you can go anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

Retirement can be the same way. Up until this point in our lives many things have dictated our path. In retirement there can be many more choices. Of course some other things may still influence where we go but in the end there are choices to be made. To illustrate, recently I had a woman in the office who told me all the things she does for her grandchildren. I could tell by her expression she did not enjoy all of the things she told me about. I challenged her to think about the difference between a choice and an obligation. After a while she admitted, “I guess I didn’t have to set up the stinky turtle aquarium in my living room.”

What choices are you free to make? 

  • Where do you want to live?
  • How do you want to spend your time?
  • What gives you satisfaction and joy?
  • Is there some place you have always wanted to visit?
  • Is there something new you have wanted to learn?
  • Are there hobbies you want to pursue?
  • Do you want to spend more time with family and friends?
  • Do you want to volunteer and help others?

The answer is different for each of us.

What resources do you need to get to your goals? 

  • Do you need to sign up for some classes?
  • Do you need to move, eg. to be closer to family or your home is to big, etc?
  • Do you want to move?
  • Do you need equipment, or to dust off the stuff you have?

By taking time before you retire to plan and dream it can be an exciting new phase of life.

Are you mentally ready for retirement?

Are you mentally ready for retirement?

I recently went to the bookstore to look for some books on retirement planning. My wife and I were getting ready for a month long trip I called “rehearsal for retirement” and I was looking for something to read. I saw lots of books on financial planning for retirement, but not much else. Of course the money part is important, but I wanted to figure out how we are going to adjust to a retirement lifestyle after years of busy careers.

The question is what to do with all the time you used to spend working? While the idea of sitting around and doing nothing can be appealing for a while, most of us will get bored in time. The other extreme can be just as bad in its own way. Jumping into new projects around the house, volunteering for everything that comes along, traveling without any plan, or depending on friends and family to fill your days can lead to burnout.

The books I did find have a common theme; you need to plan for the transition to retirement. Retirement can mean time to do what we want to do (play), not what we have to do (work). With out some kind of plan we are like a boat without a rudder and just drift along. This can be fine for a while but if you don’t watch out you can shipwreck. For some, the end of work life can happen unexpectedly, such as being laid off from your employment. Others can see retirement coming. Either way it is a good idea to take some time and come up with a road map for the years ahead. Much like a map, you don’t need to see all the details of the journey but you should have an idea of where to turn so you get where you are going. I discovered even with a month on the road we still could not see everything, but we could see a lot. I also saw the importance of looking for options when something gets in your way, such as the forest fires going on out west while we were traveling.

Think about what things you might like to try or do again. We both have a sense of adventure and like to see new places and do new things. Others like to stay with the familiar. My guess is as I get older I will want to stick to the familiar more and more.

Several of my friends who are retired have gone on to new careers, either paid or not. Myself, I left management to go back to doing counseling. Some might call it work, and I don’t mind the extra money, but I get a sense of purpose helping others. Some people I know have gotten involved volunteering and using their talents in the nonprofit sector. One said, “I am busier now than when I was working, but I am having fun doing it.” A few have taken off to travel and see the world. Others have moved away to some place they choose to be, not have to be.

There’s no right or wrong answer, and what works early in your retirement might not work forever. The important thing is to consider some options before you find your self with all the time in the world and no idea what to spend it on.

Next time making your road map for retirement.

How to repair a broken relationship

I see many couples with broken relationships. They have grown distant and may even question whether or not they even still love each other. One will often say “we’re just roommates.”

What can you do if you feel this way about your relationship?

I suggest you start by learning how to love each other and how to express your love. 

Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is one of my favorite books to help couples start thinking about what the word love really means. Real love goes beyond warm feelings. It is action. It how they treat each other. It is meeting each others needs.

If they can begin to understand not only what they need, but more importantly what their partner needs, they can begin to give each other love as a gift, and show love in ways that are meaning full to each of them.

As the positive feelings begin to build you need to start talking about what went wrong and take corrective action by making some changes. 

A common complaint these days is one or both of the couple are always on their phone, tablet, or computer. Personally I think such devices can become a form of addiction we use to escape the reality of today’s hectic lifestyle.  We use media to find a safe place and in doing so we block out the world around us. Instead of talking with each other we become lost in the cyber world. In some cases one or both have more of a relationship with others through social media.

The key is to make time without distractions to talk with each other. Many of the couples I see admit the only time they really talk with each other is during our counseling sessions.

Say something nice each day.

Don’t let things build up

Pay attention and do small things your partner asks of you.

Send a little time each day catching up on what they did that day. Maybe over diner or after the kids go to bed.

Don’t get lost in looking at the past and arguing about it. Instead begin to focus on solutions and change. Remember, the only thing you can change is today and the future. 

Couples need to learn how to have fun together. 

I am sad when I ask couples when was the last time you went on a date and had some fun and they can’t remember when the last time was.

When was the last time you:

Tried a new restaurant together?

Took a walk in the park and looked at the beauty of the world around?

Played a game together?

Went to see a movie?

Went out for coffee?

Go to a museum?

Go someplace new?

Made your own fun?

What do “Faith based” and “Christian” Counseling mean to me?

I personally believe a person’s faith can give you strength and guidelines to live a better and more effective life. As a Licensed Professional Counselor my ethics dictate I should not try to impose my beliefs on you as a client and I should respect your beliefs. The only exception I would personally make would be if I felt your beliefs are harmful to you or another, in such a case I would suggest you seek counseling from someone else.

My background is based on Christian beliefs. I went so far as to spend two years working on a Masters of Divinity degree before obtaining my Masters in Counseling degree. That is not to say that I am not comfortable or unwilling to work with persons of other faiths. In fact I have done extensive study and reading to better understand what other faiths teach. I often ask others from different backgrounds to explain to me what they believe and their understanding of how this applies to their current situation.

A good example of how this works when working with couples and families: I work from the assumption that what makes a family work is to treat each other with love as defined in the following:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

This should be a bench mark by which how a family treats each other should be measured. I often, at least internally, question what a couple means when they say they love each other if they are not treating each other this way. I will ask them what their love means. Too often it is based only on an emotional warm feeling. We all know these  warm feelings can come and go.

Facing Fears

We all have some things we fear. Some times a little fear is good but what about when it keeps you from doing something you really want to do?

I recently took my three year old grandson, Joshua, to a gymnastics session for tots. When he first got there he would climb to the start of a long trampoline you can run and jump on. He would stand there and look at it for a few minutes and then turn around and play with something else. I tried to encourage him and even held his hand. He pulled away and went back to playing with other things.

Other children began to arrive and go up to the trampoline and run recklessly down it jumping and laughing. Some even ran at full speed jumping into a pit of foam blocks. Joshua would watch them and go back up to the head of the trampoline, stand there a while taking deep breaths. Then he would turn and go back to playing with something else.

Finally after we had been there for almost an hour Joshua went back up to the head of the trampoline. He stood and took several deep breaths and cautiously put a foot on the trampoline, then his other foot. I reached out and held his hand and he took a few cautious steps. Then he let go of my hand and began walking on the trampoline. Then all at once he began to run and bounce on it. He began laughing and smiling. He continued to play on the trampoline for several minutes. He would not get off of it and ran from me when it was time to go. I had to chase him to get him to get him off of it.

What fear are you trying to face in your life?

  • Are you in a bad relationship you know you should end, or just the opposite in a new relationship but afraid to take it to the next level.
  • Are you in a job where you are unhappy and need to do something about it?
  • Are you afraid to try something you have failed at in the past?
  • Something bad happening to you or loved ones?
  • Rejection?
  • Illnesses?
  • Diseases?
  • Abandonment?

The challenge is finding ways to face your fears and to take a calculated risk. To stand back and take a few deep breaths and maybe find someone you can reach out to for support/encouragement in taking that small step.