In order to complete my graduate degree in counseling, I was required to attend 26 sessions with my own professional counselor. At the time, this seemed like an unnecessary, and inconvenient pill to swallow. After all, I had just given birth to our first child, my husband and I had only been married for a year, and my parents were in the midst of a horrendous divorce, I mean, good grief, what in the world was I going to talk about for 26 sessions?
When I first met Meredith, I remember thinking how pretty I thought she was, but she was so young! I mean, she couldn’t be much older than me, how was this going to work? What was she going to teach me?
Still, there was just something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on…she was so calm, peaceful even, and her voice matched the serene presence she offered me. Five minutes in her office and I felt completely at home. Maybe this counseling thing wouldn’t be so bad after all. So there we sat, me, my new counselor, and my new baby. She sipped her tea, casually crossed her legs, and off we went.
What do you need today?
I love her opening question, it’s remained the same now for 8 years. It’s not the cordial, “How are you?” but it doesn’t make any assumptions either. It’s simple, curious, and inviting. What did I need as a new wife and mom? Honestly, I had no idea, but I knew that this new person felt like an old friend, and we were just getting started.
There’s always marriage stuff
She made this comment during the first few minutes of our very first session, and I have never forgotten it. In a way it was more of a proclamation; one that instantaneously shattered all of my defenses, as well as the notion that we needed to have it all figured out. Essentially, she was intentionally creating a space for me to recognize and talk about the struggles in my very new marriage.
That is your story showing up again Hailey.
For years I pretended that I was tough, independent and strong. In some ways I was, and I am, but I’m learning that sometimes these qualities come with a price. Yes, I was making my own lunch in kindergarten, hated when my parents made me late for softball practice, and was the mother hen for all of my friends, but when did I start feeling responsible for everything, all of the time? Where did the line of responsibility end? When did I play? How did I rest? What does God really want me to do? Who does He want me to build relationships with?
I am so grateful for the way Meredith gently reminds me of my story, my tendencies, and my sin nature. This is counseling at it’s very best; a microcosm for “real” life and relationships. Over the years, she has taught me how to look at my story through the lens of grace and hope, instead of shame and regret. There is a sacredness to our time together, and I believe this is because the Holy Spirit has always been a part of the process.
Do you feel like he’s keeping you on the front porch of his heart?
There is a reason why Jesus used word pictures when he spoke with people, words alone are often lost, but words with a picture solidify’s the connection between our mind and our heart. I remember one particular session when I came into her office struggling with unfulfilled longings in my marriage and big emotions that I couldn’t seem to put words to. After she patiently listened to my words, she gently asked,
“Hailey, do you often feel like he lets you onto the front porch of his heart, but no further?”
The emotional release that followed these simple words was profound. That was exactly how I felt. She understood. Not only that, but we explored the reasons why I felt this way, and how I could approach my husband so that he would be able hear my hearts desire.
This one word has become my life song, so much so that I had it tattooed on my wrist last year. Our four year old daughter calls it my “stay with Jesus tattoo.” I am a blessed woman, my relationships and endeavors are producing fruit beyond my wildest dreams. My God-appointed counselor, my secret friend Meredith, has been a critical touchstone along this road of learning what it means to truly, and wholeheartedly abide in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.