The Tapestry Blog

  • Hope

     On a warm summer night, after prayers and Bible story, four-year old Abby Jane and her parents tip-toed out of the sleepy-eyed two- year- old twins darkened room. Suddenly, Abby Jane spun around and exclaimed, “Santa’s coming tomorrow!” The news propelled Joy to her feet in delight while Blythe dissolved into tears and crumpled into a heap….It took five more visits to the room that night to disappoint Joy who had a 1000 excited questions, and reassure Blythe who kept crying out ”No Santa! No Santa!”

    How many times are our hopes without form or substance? Built upon “positive thinking”, “name it and claim it” prayers (as if God was some vender in the sky), or what ever the current philosophy or spiritual formula is, rationalizing our entitlement to our expectations of how we think our life should be. How many times does this road lead us to frustration, disappointment, anger or maybe even depression?

    In this uncertain world we do have one certain thing. “I know the plans I have for you “, says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”(Jer. 29:11) Reality is that “Our hope is based on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” If you are looking for hope that is built on solid rock, not shifting sand (Matt.7:24), hope that doesn’t disappoint (Rom. 5:4) promises that are true, One that will never leave you nor forsake you (Jos.1:5), look no further. Jesus stands at the door to your life and knocks. He is truth. On that solid rock we stand, join his story for us, and dream dreams he has planted in our souls.

    He may or may not be coming tomorrow, :) but he promises to “never leave us nor forsake us”, and that “I am with you always even to the end of the world…

    -Beverly Elliott
  • The George Costanza Rule

    My father is a funny guy. He likes to be goofy and tease. I called him the other day and he answered the phone, “Hello Tonto. This is the Lone Ranger.” “Dad” I replied, “You know that you are the cause of my weirdness.” Because I enjoyed my Dad’s humor as a child and connected with him through it, it became a part of my life as well. And by the time I married my wife, I had mastered the Funny Arts and received an advanced degree in Sarcasm. While my wife has a good sense of humor and enjoys most of my humor, she is a literal-minded thinker and she has never really appreciated my sarcasm. She doesn’t get and she doesn’t like it. And, if I’m honest, I have to admit that it has always been a little disappointing that one of my favorite persons in the world couldn’t appreciate one of my most developed talents. Even my daughter, by eight years of age, had learned to recognize and laugh at my sarcasm (as a little girl, she called it “my lying voice”). As a young woman, she has come to recognize sarcasm as the sixth love language and I’m confident that she has included it as a trait that she hopes to find in a mate. Unfortunately for me, even the added social pressure of being “the odd man out” wasn’t enough to shift my wife’s feelings about this facet of my humor. So, last week when she asked me how she looked in a new dress and I sarcastically said, “I like the color, but it makes your butt look big”, I should not have been surprised when she became upset. In an effort to defend myself I asked, “Why, after 28 years together, do you still not realize that I would never literally say such a thing to you?” To which she effectively countered, “Why after 27 years of marriage (oops - did I say 28?) do you still not recognize that I don’t like it when you’re sarcastic!” Yikes! That’s honestly a very good question. Why would I keep doing the same thing expecting a different response? Isn’t that the definition of insanity? I’ve known this for over two decades and, yet, when presented with an opportunity to be sarcastic and get a laugh from her, I almost always take it. Even more embarrassing is the recognition that, in spite of directly witnessing several thousand failed attempts at sarcasm each year, on some level I still expect that she’s going to get it this time and laugh! I am a moron. I am George Costanza.

    If you are a Seinfeld fan, then you know George Costanza. George plays the role of the consummate loser. He consistently does the wrong thing and repeats the same mistakes. In one show, ( George has a flash of insight and decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. George tells this to Jerry who convinces him that, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”. George then resolves to start doing the complete opposite of what he would do normally. The change is dramatic and he quickly goes from being the loser to being well-liked. He gains the affection of a gorgeous woman and gets a new job working for the Yankees. Eventually, he confesses to Jerry that the change is exhausting and goes back to being to his normal self.

    Like George (and me), we all have an intuition that informs our interactions with others. Though a part of our design, this intuition is housed in our humanity. It is informed by our past relational experience and organized around the goal of gaining security in our relationships; it alerts us to relational threats, as well as opportunities to deepen affection or closeness with others. However, because this emotional learning is anchored in specific relationships and experiences in our past, it is not always accurate and it does not always generalize to our current relationships. In fact, there are many situations where it is exactly wrong! Thus, those very funny actions that foster a father-son connection only frustrate a husband-wife connection.

    I sat with a couple recently where the husband’s primary complaint was that his wife over-reacted to little things. In defense of his conviction, he described witnessing intense conflict in his childhood home and articulated a resolve to do things differently within his own home. His conflict-riddled childhood home had sensitized him to negative emotion and taught him to intervene quickly, with a logical counterpoint and a calming tone. In subsequent conversations, his wife disclosed that she had not always been as vocal as she was in her current marriage. She was quiet as a young girl and, in her first marriage, she acquiesced to his preferences and plans. Unfortunately, in that first marriage she was mistreated and betrayed by a selfish man who exploited her quiet manner, discounted her needs and eventually betrayed her trust. Having been burned deeply in this relationship, her intuition alerted her to situations where her best interests might be overlooked and compelled her to express her “voice.” However, whenever she got emotionally charged with her current husband – energized to represent her needs, desires and opinions - her husband intuitively (and predictably) responded with reason and alternate perspectives, minimizing her emotional intensity and striving to calm her down. Unfortunately, his efforts to protect the marriage only frustrated his wife and provoked her fears. Feeling unheard and at risk for being discounted by him, her intuition predictably compelled her to escalate her intensity which, as you can imagine, further triggered her husband to calm the situation down. And round and round the mulberry bush they ran! The very intuition which might have served them well in past relationships, caused them substantial grief in their marriage.

    Enter the “The George Costanza Rule”: in certain instances, your intuition is exactly wrong and it may well be best to do the opposite of what you feel inclined to do. For this husband, it meant learning to get emotionally involved with his wife - learning to not only tolerate her emotion, but to understand her, feel with her and affirm her; to believe that she was as committed to developing a harmonious relationship as he was. For her it meant learning to express her needs in a direct, but calm manner, trusting that her husband was looking out for her and desiring to know her needs and perspectives. The responses of this couple, though grounded in their unique pasts, are not uncommon. In many marriages, men intuitively withdraw and avoid their wives in those moments where their wives most need them to engage, understand and get involved. In a complimentary manner, many women intuitively become critical or demanding at those times when their husbands need them to be patient and affirming. Where in your marriage do you tend to most consistently do the wrong thing? Where might you need to apply “The George Costanza Rule”? 

    -Jeff Pipe

  • Olympic Parenting

     In watching the Olympics I have so enjoyed seeing the parent interviews and their reactions in the stands as they watch their stellar children’s performances. Their faces reflect the whole gambit of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to agony and pain then back to joy and elation.

    It brought back to mind Derek Raymond’s performance in the 1992 Olympics where he was favored to medal in the men’s 400 meter sprint. At 150 meters into the race, he unexpectedly collapsed in a heap on the track with what was later discovered to be a torn hamstring. The race was over. Nevertheless, picking himself back up, he determined to finish it for himself and began hobbling his way down the track. Suddenly his father, having pushed aside security guards, made his way onto the track, and came alongside his son. Putting his arms around Derek and supporting him, they made it the rest of the way… together.

    What a picture of our roles as parents. We are to equip, nourish, and nurture our children, giving them dreams to dream of what possibilities God has in store. We are to share their joys and sorrows. But more than that, we are to come alongside, sharing their burdens, lifting them up and encouraging them.

    When life’s sometimes crushing disappointments and disasters come crashing down, we also have One who is not just a distant observer or critic, maybe cheering us on from afar, but One who comes down alongside us, raises us up and carries us across the finish line.

    When we offer the same to our children… it is gold.

    -Beverly Elliott

  • My Other Wife Is A Harley

    My Other Wife is a Harley

    There was a period of several years – early in my marriage – where things were very difficult. It seemed that there was always tension in the relationship and I felt like nothing was ever enough to please my wife.  I didn’t understand why she wasn’t happy because I thought that I was a pretty good husband.  I was a nice guy who generally got along with people.  I was reasonably sensitive and a lot of fun.  I mean, c’mon, I’d written my senior thesis in college on “Family Ministry In The Church” - I knew how to be a good husband.  Nevertheless, my wife still seemed unhappy and her anger was never far away.  It seemed to me that she complained a lot and always wanted something more from me.  I could only conclude that this was her problem.  If she would just lighten up and listen to me, she’d be a lot happier and our marriage would be a lot better.  In my frustration, I started pulling away from her – distancing myself from an unpleasant situation for which I believed that I was not responsible.  Like the guy driving the old beat-up pick-up truck who wants to make sure that others know that his truck is not a reflection of his true investment, there were moments when I wanted to slap a bumper sticker on my wife’s rear end; maybe one that read:  “My Other Wife Is A Harley”.

    Feeling unappreciated at home, I directed my energy toward my job and my recreational outlets.  Life wasn’t all that I’d hoped for, but I was rocking along okay.  Then, around the sixth year of our marriage, a thought – hanging on eight painful words - popped into my head:  “You’re doing more to her than for her.”  I don’t know where those words – that thought – came from.  But once it was there, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  It haunted me for months before I seriously tried to understand it or act on it.  During this same period of time, I was studying the book of Ephesians and when I got to chapter 5, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was confronted with the call for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church.  I’d read the passage a dozen times before, but this time it penetrated my heart.  And as the picture painted in Ephesians 5 came into focus for me, I was terrified.  Could I say that I had given my life for this woman?  Dedicated each day to her growth and betterment?  Was she, as a result of my work in her life,  “radiant”, “blameless” or “without blemish”?  And what if I was, literally, asked to present my wife to Christ as he will present His bride, the church, to Himself?  I would be mortified.  A quick audit of how I used my resources - my time, my money and my passion – was damning; I’d clearly invested more of myself in my ministry and my hobbies than in my wife.  That moment of exposure felt like a nightmare coming true: the one where you suddenly realize it’s the end of the semester and somehow you never attended any classes!?  You stagger into the classroom dazed and confused, realizing that in the rush you forgot to put your pants on.  And as you become aware of what’s occurring in the classroom you see that the professor is handing out the final exam! That was the feeling; that was the nightmare - except this time there was no waking up.  It was real.

    By the grace of my God and my wife, I began moving out of the nightmare.  A little counseling and a little honest reflection made it clear that I wasn’t quite the husband that I’d thought myself to be.  Awash in my own self-serving and self-protective way of relating, I’d invested my heart and energy into those things that made me feel good about myself.  I now see that I had, in fact, done more to my wife than for her. I started investing more of myself – my time, my passion, my money - in her and in our marriage.  Although this new investment cost me something, the return quickly equaled – and then exceeded - my investment.  Twenty years later, we share a passion and sweetness in our marriage that I could never have anticipated.  As a marriage therapist, I now find myself asking men the same questions which I had to face.  Have you disinvested yourself from your wife and marriage? …pulled away? …taken on a passive stance?  …invested your time and energy into something that provides a more immediate and predictable return?  If so, I would challenge you to invest as much of yourself into understanding and bettering your wife as you have invested into your career, your hobbies… your Harley.  If you genuinely do, I can almost promise that you will be surprised by what you get back in return.

    -Jeff Pipe

  • About Tapestry's new look.

    Welcome to our new site. You may notice that we've updated a lot of things. We have an updated look, a new slogan, a new website, and new videos about our practice and about each of our counselors. As Tapestry has grown and matured, we've always sought to uphold our core values, including professional excellence. This means that each experience you have with us should be as clear, enjoyable, and informative as possible. And, like our office environment, we've worked hard to make our web environment enjoyable and approachable.

  • Safety

    Last Summer I was reminded why tubing behind a ski boat is for people much younger than myself. After watching my friend Phil throw a couple of young guys off of a tube tethered behind his boat, I told him that I was ready for a ride. As I climbed out of the boat and onto the tube I was overcome by what I must now assume was some form of brief psychosis; temporarily separated from any cognitive awareness of my age, strength and weight at the time, I taunted the power of Phil’s boat and questioned his ability to dismount me from the tube.

    Sixty seconds later, with whitened knuckles clenched to a pair of canvas straps and my heart struggling to circulate blood to gelatinized muscles, my insanity remitted and I became aware of my imminent death. The water that had looked so soft and inviting earlier, now felt like concrete as my feet – flailing behind the tube – skipped across it’s surface. Struggling to retain some appearance of masculine adequacy before the family and friends watching me, I forced my face into a smile as I contemplated whether my impending mutilation would require a closed casket. Each skip of the accelerating tube dislodged exhilaration and replaced it with terror. With the boat exceeding 100 mph (I was later told it was only 15mph but I know better), I decided that the most honorable thing to do would be to release the tube volitionally and, thus, relieve Phil of the guilt he would most certainly feel for killing me himself. After a brief skim across the water, my terror came to an end as the water that threatened me only seconds earlier, now enclosed me in its soft warmth. Upright, conscious and still possessing all limbs, I was successfully able to stop crying before the boat circled back around to pick me up.

    Safety in a marriage – a sense that your spouse is invested in your well-being - is fragile. When you have it, you can risk things once feared and explore terrain previously avoided. When you lose it, even simple daily interactions feel tentative, uncomfortable and frightening. Blaming, name-calling, non-verbal expressions of contempt, criticism, defensiveness and even silence can quickly compromise a sense of safety in a marriage. And if you don’t have safety in your marriage, you don’t have anything. Without safety, establishing any meaningful communication, agreement or intimacy is impossible. Research indicates that once your spouse feels unsafe – and their heart-rate rises above 90 bpm – they are no longer capable of accurately hearing or interpreting what you are saying to them. Rather - if they “hear” anything - it is not what you’re saying, but what they expect to hear you say (which is typically not good news!). You can tell when it happens… their face hardens or they shut down… and on some level you recognize that they are no longer hearing what you have to say. Unfortunately, such a reaction probably triggers your anger and – if you are like most couples – this quickly escalates into what feels like the same old fight yet again. Without safety, even simple conversations deteriorate into destructive and hurtful interactions.

    What have you done to help your spouse feel safe with you recently? In Psalm 32 David says of our God, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” If this is true, then even during difficult times in your marriage your safety is insured – and you, in turn, can offer safety to your spouse. If you have not recently made an intentional effort to offer your spouse safety, let me encourage you to do so with the following.

    • Express a commitment to take criticism and contemptuous actions or words out of your marriage
    • Once a day – for the next three days - affirm one positive character trait you genuinely respect in your spouse
    • Once a day for the next 10 days, express appreciation for something – big or small - which your spouse does for you and/or your family
    • Remind your spouse that you are committed to them and that you will not leave them
    • The next time you get into a disagreement with your spouse, set your agenda aside and strive to understand and affirm their position on the matter; the benefit of surrendering your agenda for the sake of understanding your spouse will usually far outweigh the loss of any individual debate or decision
    • Ask your spouse to tell you about things which you do that leave them feeling more or less safe/secure in the relationship
  • The Magic Wand

    If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about the way your spouse relates to you, what would you change? Perhaps you’d like your wife to quite nagging you or to be less critical. Perhaps you’d like your husband to spend more time at home or you wish he'd be more open about what’s going on in his life. For myself, I think that I would like for my wife to be a better listener. I feel like she tends to draw conclusions about what I’m saying before I’ve finished saying what’s on my mind.

    So, let me ask, if you could change one thing about the way that your spouse relates to you, what would it be? Once you've answered the question, read on.

    Before you get lost in the rant that’s beginning to build momentum inside of you, let me suggest that your answer to my “magic wand” question says more about you than it does about your spouse. Because every husband and every wife is flawed… finite… fallen… the potential for spousal disappointment and discontent is endless. In other words, the list of weaknesses, failures and inadequacies from which you could answer my “magic wand” question is virtually infinite. Nevertheless, when presented with the question, I would bet that you – like most persons - quickly screen through the endless possibilities and gravitate to one or two primary areas of spousal discontent. And, whether you recognize it or not, the criteria by which you embrace or discard complaints and discontents is not some inherent knowledge of what is fair, right or appropriate to expect of a spouse, but your own personal longings and fears.

    Last week I sat down with a husband who was socially awkward as a boy; he was often teased, bullied and rejected by his peers. When asked the magic wand question, he said that he wanted his wife to be more affectionate – to tell him that she loved him more often. When pressed, he acknowledged that in the absence of her affection, he quickly begins to feel rejected by her. Whether his wife is unaffectionate is irrelevant. She’s probably about as affectionate as the woman next door; at the same time, she could certainly give him more hugs, kisses and kind words. However, what is critically relevant is that this man expects rejection (and don’t we all!) and longs for a level of affection that will put his fears to rest.

    In my own case, I have to concede that it’s important to me that my wife understands me – that she listens to me before she judges me – because I never felt understood by my parents as a teenager. My parents loved me and cared for me, but had no idea what to do with my adventurous and creative side. It scared them and they tried to quash it rather than re-direct it. And so I launched into adulthood with a strong need to be affirmed in my uniqueness and a fear being misunderstood and pressed into a mold in which I didn’t fit. Again, my frustration with my wife’s finite ability to understand me before she responds or reacts, says little about her, but a great deal about me.

    If you look deeply into your most consistent complaints about your spouse – your discontent - your frustrations – you will see your own deepest fears and longings reflected there. And if you can see them, then you can own them. Own them as a part of you and not an indicator of your spouse’s inadequacies. Rather than pointing a finger at your spouse, you can invite them to help you in addressing them. So, now, when I have a big idea or some new insight that I think will save the world or bring me fame and fortune, I know that I need to be careful as I share it with my wife. I know what’s at stake for me and I understand my hot button. And, because my wife loves me and wants to both understand and support me, she works especially hard as we talk. So, instead of our conversation devolving into an argument over her inadequacies or my unreasonable expectations, we partner together to allay my fears and – where God should permit – pursue fulfillment of my longings. So, if you had a magic wand...

  • The Stupid Pill

    It’s been suggested that you can learn what someone really thinks of you when they’re angry. However, research on brain functioning suggests that this simply isn’t true. As you become emotionally charged and your physiological arousal escalates, parts of your brain actually goes off-line. As activity in your brain’s emotional centers increases, activity in your cortex (the part of your brain that sets you apart from your dog or pet rabbit) decreases. As a result, your ability to access certain cognitive processes (reasoning, intuition, empathy and self-awareness to name a few) is restricted while your inclination to “react” increases. By the time your heart-rate is above 90 beats per minute (which happens pretty quickly – especially for men!), you’re barely able to hear what your spouse is saying to you, no less understand it and respond to it thoughtfully or honestly.

    In effect, getting angry is like taking a stupid pill. So, if you want to find out what someone thinks of you when half of their brain is turned off, then seeing what comes out when they are angry is a pretty good idea. But if you want to know what someone really thinks of you – or perhaps more importantly – if you want to make sure that what you say is an honest expression of who you are, then it's probably a good idea to calm down before you open your mouth.

  • Pursuit and Withdrawal.

    God tagged Adam pretty hard for his refusal to engage with his wife and her seducer in the Garden. With no less zeal, he slapped a heavy sentence on Eve for her presumptuous initiative.

    In every marriage there is a pursuer and a withdrawer. The pursuer tends to initiate engagement, discussion, conflict and problem-solving. The withdrawer tends to defer or even avoid potentially conflictual discussions; they enjoy contact and discussion, but don’t typically initiate it. In a healthy marriage, one spouse tends to pursue or withdraw more often, but – like a pendulum swinging from side-to-side – each partner moves back and forth between pursuit and withdrawal. When a relationship gets into trouble, partners become increasingly entrenched in their pursuit or withdrawal. The pursuer locks into their role and - with escalating fear, need or anger - seeks to engage their spouse in emotionally meaningful contact. Fearing the intensity of their spouse, the withdrawer actively avoids contact, retreating behind an emotional detachment. Feeling shut-out, the pursuer escalates their efforts and intensity, reinforcing the withdrawer’s disengagement and retreat. As this death spiral cycles downward, the withdrawer feels increasingly inadequate to please their spouse, manage their emotional intensity or meet their growing emotional need. Concurrently, a pursuer’s fear that they will be abandoned and uncared for exposes a growing conviction that they are unmanageable or unworthy of their spouse’s love.

    I once watched my dog chase and catch a squirrel by the tail in my back yard. Once caught, the squirrel lunged at him. I guess that’s not quite what the dog was expecting because he jumped back and then let the squirrel go his way. I’m pretty sure that the same squirrel was back in the yard again the next day. I’d like to think that he and the dog are friends now.

  • The Phone is in Your Hand

    I gave my wife a call to check-in and let her know that I was on my way home from the office the other day. We were chatting as I walked across the parking lot when it dawned on me that something was wrong. You know, that vague feeling you get when something isn’t quite right… something is missing. In a flash, I scanned myself and my immediate surroundings and realized that my front pocket was lighter than it should have been… that the i-phone that usually rests in this pocket was not there. And, because I rarely leave my phone behind or misplace it, I knew that someone else must have taken it from my office or used it and misplaced it.

    Thinking out loud with my wife, I reflected on all of those persons who had come through my office that day. And, because she had been in my office earlier… and because she often uses my iPhone to check the weather or get on-line… and because she doesn’t always put my things back where she finds them… she quickly moved to the top of my list of suspects.

    Without hesitating, I turned my questioning toward her. And, when she remained silent and didn’t respond – offering no confession of guilt, no defense of her innocence, I thought it odd. Until, in that rather awkward moment, I realized what she already knew… that my iPhone wasn’t missing… that it hadn’t been stolen, lost or misplaced… that it was not in my pocket because it was in my hand… being used to speak to her… the woman I was suspecting of wrong-doing.

    And, so, if you want to improve your marriage; if something seems wrong or missing; if you find yourself thinking about what your spouse does and doesn’t bring to the table; if you find yourself saying that things would be better if only he would…. If only she was… Stop it. The phone is in your hand. Really. Trust me. It's there. And if you haven’t found it there, it’s because you’re not looking hard enough.

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