All posts by Brooke Duecker

The Fundamentals of Teaching Family Model

At Compass Rose Academy, our direct care staff use the Teaching Family Model (TFM), a relational, evidenced-based, trauma-informed model of care focused on increasing life skill development in children and teens.

When using TFM, our direct care staff engage in daily teaching interactions to help teens learn social and relationship skills. Residential staff, now called Family Teachers, develop these skills using a motivation system that is positive and strengths-based, while still holding youth accountable for their choices. The skills youth learn through the model will then translate to better parent-child interaction, improved school behavior following placement, and increased work readiness.

While it all sounds good on paper, many might wonder what TFM looks like practically. Here is a little bit of insight into the daily world of TFM.

Every student starts with working on five basic skills: follow instructions, ask permission, accept no for an answer, greeting skills, and accept feedback. There are a total of 50 skills for the students to work on throughout their time at CRA. 

Students are required to get a certain number of signatures per day, which they achieve by getting “positives.” Positives are given out when a staff member notices the student displaying a skill they are working on. If the student receives her total number of signatures, she is granted privileges, such as watching TV, the next day. The amount of signatures required per day decreases as the student moves through the stages of treatment.

In TFM, consequences are called “practices.” When a student “earns a practice,” the staff member will tell the student specifically how she did not follow the skill she is working on and then explain what following that skill would have looked like in that situation and why that skill is important, including why it will serve the student well outside of Compass Rose. Staff members never use the words, “You didn’t…” or “You should have…”

In order for the student to fulfill their practice, the staff member will walk them through a scenario involving the same skill and have the student respond with what utilizing that skill would look like in that scenario. 

“TFM is very intentional about being clear on what creates a positive interaction and what creates a negative interaction. They turn what sounds like it should be pretty gray into a very black and white system of natural repercussions that the students earn versus the staff giving out consequences. It is no longer me being the bad guy; I am not the reason they have this repercussion, they are the reason they have this repercussion,” said Eden Snyder, Residential Supervisor.

In the last stage of the student’s treatment before going home, the staff asks the student’s parents, and the student herself, what she should be working on as she looks toward going home.

“I feel like it’s very realistic for our parents to take some of what we teach the students here and take it home and continue it in a way that they are now not arguing over things, they are just calling out behavior,” said Natasha Whitney, Residential Supervisor. 

What will you do about your relationships this year?

As you reflect on 2022 and look forward to the rest of 2023, are you content with what you see in your personal, professional, and even familial relationships? I observe that many people go from day to day, month to month, and year to year with the awareness that many, most, or even all of their relationships are unsupportive or unfulfilling. Worse, they may have relationships that are harmful and toxic. People avoid addressing the underlying issues because they either don’t know what to do or they promise they’ll address relational issues later when they’re not so busy working or raising children. Do any of these sound familiar:

  • What friends? Who has time for that? 
  • When our kids move out, my spouse and I will have time to reconnect and do things we enjoy.
  • By the time I work a full day, chauffeur the kids back and forth to practice and games, and do all my other tasks, I’m lucky to eat and sleep, let alone have a meaningful conversation with another adult. 
  • Having friends when you’re a kid or in college is one thing, but when you’re an adult, it’s just different. It’s harder to meet people. 
  • After a few years of marriage and especially with raising kids, my spouse and I became more like roommates than soulmates. 
  • I long for a deeper connection with people and to have meaningful conversations with people who can relate to me, but I don’t even know where to start. 

I want to encourage you at the beginning of this year not to kick that can any further down the road. If you feel today like you are not engaged in enough meaningful and mutually supportive relationships that give life and energy to each party, then there are some things you can do about it. First, it starts with intentionality and believing that things can be different. Second, it involves fostering and stewarding the relationships that you do have. Here are some ways that you can experience deeper and more meaningful relationships in 2023 and beyond: 

  • Listen to others with your eyes, mind, and heart. Have you ever noticed that while most people pass quickly with surface-level greetings, it really stands out when someone actually pauses to listen and connect like they actually care about your response? In your current relationships, be the one to move past surface-level exchanges. Pause when you talk with someone and meaningfully listen with your eyes, mind, and heart. Ask thoughtful questions that allow the person to share something beyond the surface with you. I promise you this intentionality around more meaningful connection will be noticeable and will help you develop a pattern of interpersonal interactions that foster a deeper level of engagement. 
  • Share what’s on your mind, with grace. So often, whether it’s a kind word or a confrontation, we avoid sharing our thoughts or feelings with others. You feel a nudge in your heart to share a piece of encouragement with someone, give them positive feedback, or tell them how much they mean to you, but you rationalize it away, telling yourself they will think you’re strange or won’t return the sentiment. On the other hand, you may find yourself wanting to challenge someone or let them know what they said was hurtful, but you decide it wouldn’t be worth it or you’re just being too sensitive. In either case, following these prompts to share genuinely from your heart (with grace if it’s a confrontation) can help you to connect more deeply and meaningfully with others in a way that is empowering and energizing for both. 
  • Invest in relationships. If you resonate with the idea of your spouse being more like a roommate, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You may feel powerless because even if you want things to change, the other is content to leave things as they are. Remember that you are half of the relationship. It’s impossible for you to change and things stay exactly as they are. Decide how you would like things to be different and then do what you can to implement those changes. Maybe it’s couples counseling. If you can’t get the other to go, then schedule individual counseling and work on yourself. Making yourself healthier and empowered will have an impact on the relationship! Just like a 401K or other fund, you can make steady investments in your relationship over this year that make a big difference in the long-run. 
  • Schedule time for connection. Just like some of your tasks won’t get done unless they make it to your personal calendar, meaningful connection is more likely to take place if you are intentional about creating opportunities. As you look forward to 2023, who are the people with whom you would like to spend more time or connect with more meaningfully? Maybe it’s you and your spouse creating a daily check-in or weekly date night. My wife and I were married on the 11th, so we try to do something on the 11th of each month at minimum. Maybe 1 or 2 friends come to mind – reach out and see if they may be interested in a weekly or monthly call, coffee, or meal. This can be as structured or unstructured as you like. For some people, it’s helpful to plan to meet on a monthly basis to check in and review personal goals. For others, it’s perfect just to schedule the time together for open and unstructured sharing. A special note for men – people sometimes think men aren’t interested in sitting around talking and you’ve got to be fixing something or playing sports. Sports and activities are great too and I love them, but I’ve reached out various times over the years to set up groups of men for this type of connection and have always had enthusiastic responses. In fact, in some cases we started out meeting monthly and moved it to as often as weekly. I’ve never had men respond with, “No thanks, I’m not really looking for connection right now.” It’s always quite the opposite.  

I love the New Year season. It’s always exciting for me to think of the next year as a blank slate or a fresh canvas. I get to decide what to do with it! There’s so much opportunity ahead. Imagine an area of your life and how you want it to improve. How might things look differently at the end of the year if you approach it with intentionality and purpose throughout the year? I hope that you experience rich and meaningful connection this year as you plan to intentionally steward your relationships all year long and beyond. 


~Mike Haarer, PhD, LMHC, Compass Rose Academy Vice President & Executive Director

The Gift of Immanuel God With Us

Ahhhhh, Christmas. The time of year when we rejoice at snow, get special feelings when we hear jingle bells, and give ourselves allowances to eat far too many cookies. It truly is a unique time of year, filled with events, gifts, to-do lists, baked goods, and travel plans. In the middle of all the hustle and bustle, can we all take a moment to be brutally honest with ourselves? It might not be the highlight of our season of celebration, but I believe there is a need for us to take a moment and be honest about Christmas and the reality of who we are and the purpose in our lives. 

In CRA chapels, we’ve taken time aside to address different things about the Christmas story that often go ignored, assumed, or brushed aside. One of the main topics being a reminder of who Jesus is. You see, the problem with Christmas is that in our traditions, carols, and family gatherings we continually remind ourselves to keep “Christ in Christmas” and in doing so “remember the reason for the season” but this leaves a lot of room to forget who Jesus is, and who I am, and just what I am supposed to be remembering. 

To do that we have to start at the beginning, and recall the story of creation in Genesis 1-3. In the biblical narrative, we see God created a world meant for unhindered communion with Him, and we in turn see humankind doubt God and in disobedience, declare that humanity knows better than its creator. This set the stage for the rest of history, which can be seen as humans living in a fallen world. It is clearly displayed in the Biblical story how time and time again humans fail in restoring relationships with God. They don’t keep the law, they lie, they doubt, they covet, they steal, they murder, they fail. Beyond the Bible, it doesn’t take much of a history lesson to see that something is still wrong with the world. Something is not right. Peace is a far off dream, hope is fleeting, and love is hard to find. The world is not okay. Something is not how it should be. 

The part where we are going to need to be brutally honest is to say, “Something is wrong with the world, and I’m part of the problem.” It’s really easy to blame other people for all that has gone wrong in our life. It’s easy to point the finger and justify ourselves, but take this in, you are part of the problem. Try as you might, something is wrong with us and no matter what we do, we cannot fix it. 

The world will acknowledge that some things are not right and then, with growing popularity, tell us to dig deep and access some greater good that is within us. If you can find that inner peace, then maybe you can contribute good to society, enjoy life, and have a successful career with a loving family. If none of that is working out for you, then just dig a little deeper and discover something about yourself. You are your own solution. 

In what I’m sure seems like a harsh reality, let me say, there’s a problem and you can’t fix it. No amount of self discovery will change the fact that you and this world are not how it should be. You are lost and in need of saving. 

Now let’s dwell in some more truth, you are in desperate need of saving, and the creator of the universe has sent a Savior. You see, until I am able to acknowledge that I am in need of saving, Jesus will just be a baby who grew up to be a great teacher who had some good moral standards to live by. But if I am indeed lost and without a way to find my way back, then I can fully take in that by no other provision but Jesus Christ can I be saved from my current reality. I am lost at sea, and God has shown up!

The last thing I want to say is to marvel for a moment on how Jesus saved us. I can find myself in the depths of life feeling utterly consumed by the darkness all around me and in my need, cry out for God to save me. He’s this grand, marvelous God who could pluck me from my circumstances, wave his hand, and fix the whole world. He doesn’t do that. Instead he shows up in the middle of the chaos, and says “Let’s walk this together, will you let me lead?” That’s the gift of “Immanuel God with us” (Isaiah 7:14) — that in the middle of our chaos He comes and walks with us. In the middle of our desperate need for saving, he comes along and says, “Let’s walk this journey together, will you let me lead?” 

This is what we would often not talk about, but is what makes the Christmas season worth celebrating. That as the world has gone drastically wrong, God has been at work restoring His kingdom, and His master plan includes a human form of Himself here to save His creation through radical love and redemption, but in order to be made anew, I have to acknowledge that the current me isn’t working. 

~By LilyAnn Matchett, Compass Rose Academy Student Chaplain

Learning in a Trauma-Informed Setting

The Academy at Compass Rose is dedicated to providing a safe space for students to learn and grow academically. With this in mind, The Academy provides an environment that is trauma-informed and meets the needs of a diverse student population.

Recently, The Academy gained a new staff member, Onyx. Onyx is a therapy dog that attends school with the students. Sometimes, he sits in on therapy sessions or spends time with a student that is having a hard day. He is at lunch and hangs out with students during passing periods as well. 

“Onyx helps me when I’m having a rough time with peers or at school. He is comforting to have around,” said a current 8th grade student.

The Academy also provides students an emotional regulation space as well as opportunities for movement throughout the school day. In our emotional regulation space we have dim lighting, calming music, and a quiet place to work on schoolwork. 

“The space is very calming, and it gives you a place to talk to someone and do your schoolwork. I like being able to take a break and go outside too,” said a current 11th grade student. 

Sensory toys or fidgets are provided to students throughout the day as needed. Each classroom also has access to a variety of flexible seating choices such as floor seating, wobble cushions, and mobile seating. These supports aid students’ ability to stay focused within the school environment. 

Operating from a trauma-informed lens helps us to meet students where they are and provide a safe environment for them to learn and grow. 

It’s NO-vember!

Every year, I go into the holiday season with great excitement and anticipation of all of the memorable activities that lie ahead. In my head, I imagine time at home with family playing games, watching movies, and enjoying great food and fun. In reality, every year there is also some level of disappointment that the holiday season did not live up to my expectations. Invariably, a part of this disillusionment comes from the awareness that the holidays as an adult are much more pragmatic and, yes, stressful than the nostalgic memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s as a child. I’m always saddened to see adults just white knuckling their way through all of the holiday “must-do’s” instead of allowing themselves to experience the wonder of the season, including taking in the warmth of relationships with those in their circle of family and friends. 

This year, I am committing to do the holidays differently, and I invite you to join me in beginning the holiday season by taking part in NO-vember! That’s right, to fully embrace the reason for the season, we need to start by strengthening our “no” muscle. One of the reasons I believe so many of us are stressed and overwhelmed during the holidays is because we begrudgingly take part in every obligatory holiday activity and set no boundaries around our time and what is in our family’s best interest. 

You may identify with one of the following reasons that it can be hard to say to “No”: 

People Pleasing: This is a pattern of over-accommodating to meet the needs of others that has its roots in the desire to maintain the friendship or admiration of others. For a host of reasons, we unconsciously, yet repeatedly, tell ourselves that it is more important to keep others happy than it is to make wise decisions with our time and energy. 

Self-Sacrificing: Often with the best of intentions and even a deeply-rooted faith at its foundation, this is a pattern of behavior that habitually denies one’s own needs, even to personal detriment. People exhibiting this pattern may believe that this type of self-sacrifice is what their faith requires of them or that this is their duty to make the world a better place. What they don’t consciously realize is that continually depleting their own resources and reserves without attending to their own needs is not a sustainable long-term path for loving, giving to, or impacting others. 

Caretaking/Enabling: People exhibiting this pattern may see those around them through a lens of neediness or even weakness. They naturally step into the parent role and allow those around them to be in a child role, helpless dependent role, or even a victim role. By caretaking others, we can get a nice internal reward for feeling like we are doing something good. In reality, our enabling patterns may actually foster helplessness or inappropriate dependent patterns in others that keep them stuck where they are at. 

Conflict Avoiding: I venture to say that most people, aside from maybe 8’s on the Enneagram, do not relish challenge or conflict with others. We would rather avoid difficult conversations and go great lengths to avoid hurting others’ feelings. What we may not realize is that boundaries and healthy conflict actually enhance relationships. When we care enough to tell each other the truth with grace, this actually fosters trust and connection. 

So, this NO-vember, I invite you to take steps that will allow you to meaningfully engage in the holiday season with those you love. Here are some activities for strengthening your NO muscle which, although counterintuitive at first, will help you to be fully present with everything you say YES to:

  1. Say NO to at least one request per week. It is often helpful to remember that when you say “yes” to the person in front of you at the moment, you are also saying “no” to others in your life. For example, saying yes to an extra project at work, a game with friends, or a volunteer opportunity may mean saying “no” to meaningful time engaging with your spouse, tucking your kids in at night, or enjoying connection with a friend. So, each week in NO-vember, be mindful of what is being asked of you and challenge yourself to decline an offer or opportunity in order to free yourself for more time with those you love or more time to refuel your tank.
  2. Choose something to quit. Many of us tend to be overcommitted in regard to our roles and responsibilities. I have a couple people in my life, currently my wife and my boss, who when I tell them I want to start an exciting new activity or opportunity, will invariably ask me what I’m going to give up to make time for it. The time will come from somewhere. Take an inventory of your commitment and decide what it’s time to let go of. For some this may be a volunteer position or a league of some kind. For others, it may be a decision to quit spending significant time on TV or social media in order to create time for meaningful connection or activities that fuel, instead of drain, life and energy.
  3. Have a difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding. You can probably think of at least one “conflict” you’ve been avoiding. Take a small risk to step into healthy conflict that will allow you to experience that having a truthful conversation (with lots of grace and compassion) will foster a closer connection than years of playing nice.

I wish you all the best as you explore ways that you can take part in NO-vember this year so that you can create space and energy for a meaningful and rejuvenating holiday season!


Compass Rose Academy Achieves Teaching Family Association Accreditation

Compass Rose Academy is thrilled to announce that we recently became an accredited Teaching Family Association agency. 

Teaching Family Association is the accrediting agency of Teaching Family Model (TFM), a relational, evidenced-based, trauma-informed model of care focused on increasing life skill development in children and teens. Adopting this model ensures that we are able to provide the most effective training for our ministry staff and the best possible outcomes for the teens and families we serve. 

“One of our core definitions of how we will succeed as an organization is to provide a superior model of care,” said Ron Evans, President and CEO. “This accreditation emphasizes our commitment to have the best people using the best practices for the best result.”  

The accreditation process has taken almost two and a half years. CRA is grateful to Methodist Home for Children (MHC) in North Carolina, who mentored us through the process of training and implementing the model, including monthly visits to our campus.

When using the TFM, caregivers engage in daily teaching interactions to help teens learn social and relationship skills. Residential staff, now called Family Teachers, develop these skills using a motivation system that is positive and strengths-based, while still holding youth accountable for their choices. The skills youth learn through the model will then translate to better parent-child interaction, improved school behavior following placement, and increased work readiness.

“Being accredited by TFA assures students, parents, referral sources, and other constituents that they can trust that our services for students and families are at the highest standard,” said Mike Haarer, Vice President and Executive Director of Compass Rose Academy. “Those who refer teens to Compass Rose can be assured that teens in our care will be in a trauma-informed environment that consistently provides emotional and physical safety, nurture, and structure.” 

Official recognition of our accreditation will be taking place at the TFA Conference at the end of the month. 

Compass Rose is honored to be an accredited TFA agency and is excited for what this accreditation will mean for our future as an organization. 

How to Support Your Teen’s Mental Health Challenges

The mental health crisis facing today’s youth is staggering, and has only been exaggerated by events such as the global pandemic. Loneliness and isolation exacerbate despair and depression. A lack of safety and security invite anxiety. It doesn’t take much imagination to highlight how practices, such as social distancing and stringent hygiene that were highly valued during the COVID pandemic, actually contribute to the second wave of a mental health pandemic.

Statistics tell us that something like one and six teenagers experiences a mental health challenge and this spiked to one in three during the pandemic. And somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of all mental illnesses express themselves while a person is still in adolescence. So whether you are parenting a teen experiencing a mental health challenge, or connected to one in some other influential position,  you’ve probably wondered, “Now what?”

You’re not alone and don’t go it alone. The willingness to seek help for mental health has increased as stigmas have been reduced. This is a healthy culture shift but has also caused strain on many systems that provide professional care. By all means, get on waiting lists to see psychiatrists and find creative ways to enlist the help of other professionals. But as a parent, you will likely need many people encouraging and helping you along the way. Other parents on similar journeys can be great at offering validation and empathy, normalizing your experiences. A spiritual leader might be helpful in offering empathy or hope. A teen’s teacher or coach might be great at offering perspective and feedback about how they experience your teen.  You and your teen need these people and the relational nutrients they provide.

Person over problem. Work to stay focused on your teen as a person first. It’s easy to let mental health challenges become a definition of the person experiencing the challenge. But even small language changes such as “My teen is experiencing some mental health challenges” vs “I have a depressed teen” can shape the way we view and give care to the teen. Person centered caregiving helps us honor and meet the teen where they are: as a human to be loved, not a problem to be fixed. Practice creating times for connecting with the teen that sets the challenges aside. Are they isolating in their room playing video games?…ask to join them and have them teach you the game. Are they refusing to participate in family activities they previously enjoyed?….get curious about new traditions or activities that might interest them more. Are they constantly putting themselves down or seeking acceptance from unhealthy peers?…speak affirmation over your teen to communicate your belief in them, about WHO they are, not what they are.

Your best chance at helping your teen is changing YOU.  A dysregulated parent (or any adult) can not regulate a teen, such as in the case of an anger outburst or incident of self harm. A caregiver who can’t hear a healthy “no” from a teen can’t expect the teen to magically be able to say “no” to peers in unhealthy situations. A family culture that is too consumed with goals and achievements will communicate to a teen that they have pressure to perform in certain ways to be a part of the family. Writer Anne Lamott says, “…the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.” You can work to earn influence in a teen’s life, but you won’t have the power to control or change them. You only have the power to change yourself.  Find your own therapist or life coach. Join a growth or support group. Practice your own mental health hygiene through techniques such self care, radical acceptance, or progressive muscle relaxation. Work on YOU first.

As parents and caregivers, it is vital that we acknowledge the epidemic of mental health challenges exhibited in our current generation of teenagers. It is important that the problems are validated and professional help is sought for the teen. But don’t underestimate the power of doing your own growth work and connecting with support systems. Even if your teen continues to struggle, you will have gained a village of encouragement and invested in your own mental-emotional wellbeing.  That might be just the peace you’re looking for!

Day in the Life of a Family Teacher

Kara Russell and Bailey Lauer are both Family Teachers at Compass Rose Academy (CRA). Keep reading this Q&A to learn more about what their job is like!

What does a typical day look like as a Family Teacher at CRA? What is your schedule? 

K: A typical day at CRA begins with waking up the students (I actually wake them up to the same song “Good morning Beauty Queen” just for fun). They are pretty self-sufficient in the morning as they make their own breakfast, clean up their room, and do the chore that they are assigned to do around the house. They will then start getting ready for the day brushing their teeth, putting on makeup, doing their hair, and generally managing their time to ensure that they stay on schedule. During the week, the students go to school around 8:30 a.m. Family Teachers leave the students there and return at 11:00 a.m. to take the students to group therapy and lunch. Family Teachers take turns serving lunch, but after serving, we leave the students with school staff from 12:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. While the kids are in school, Family Teachers typically get to return to the home or another place to hang out. Sometimes, Family Teachers might have to do something in the home rather than resting but that is not typically the case. Once the students are picked up from school, they get an afternoon snack and begin their required 1 hour of daily recreation. One of the students is responsible for cooking dinner every night for the rest of the home, and so they begin the cooking process. Staff steps in when necessary to help the students. The students have a bit of free time in which they can do crafts, read a book, play a game, or talk to friends before dinner. We eat a “family style” dinner together and then the girls clean up and touch up their assigned chore. The rest of the evening the students can watch TV and just hang out until they have a required room time from 7:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. during which they are to work on their treatment work or take time to themselves. At 8:00 p.m., the girls get their evening snack and continue to hang out. Betimes start at 8:45 p.m. and go all the way until 10:00 p.m. when Family Teachers get off. 

B: A typical day at CRA is a busy day, but in a good way. School days, Monday through Thursday, are the most structured days because we have to make sure the students are where they need to be and on time. We do have free time to ourselves during the time that the students are in school, just as long as we have no required meetings to attend. Fridays are typically busy the first half of the day. There are phase meetings where students meet with their treatment team so they can progress in their program. The students and staff also go to Reins and Rainbows, which is an equine therapy program. The second half of Fridays typically have free time where you get to spend time with the students, and can really spend time building relationships. Saturdays are the days where we take the students off-campus for outings. Examples of outings that I have been a part of are: going to the movies, going to various parks, going to a trampoline park, and bowling. Outings are always a lot of fun, and the students look forward to them because they get to be “normal” teenagers. On Sundays, we attend church at New Journey in Wabash. After church, we come back to Compass Rose and have lunch in the home, and then do a super clean of chores and their rooms to make sure that when we start the new week on Monday, everything is in good shape in the home. Sunday afternoons and evenings are once again used as downtime where we get to spend time building relationships.

What do you like best about your job?

K: I personally love that each day is different. I am never bored at work. There is time to really pour into girls and help them through a rough time in their life. I get to be someone’s shoulder to cry on, someone who is there through the thick and thin for these students. No day is the same, there are different issues to deal with everyday as you help teenage girls live together. 

B: I like many things about my job so it makes it hard to choose just one thing. I really like the people that I work with. I love working with the students, some days can be a struggle, but there are definitely more better days than there are worse days and that ultimately makes it worth it.

How would you describe your job to someone who has never heard of CRA?

K: I work with teenage girls who have severe mental health and/or behavioral issues in a residential facility. I work 16 hour days which actually is not as terrible as it sounds. It is actually doable because there is time to rest when needed for the most part. Everyday is totally different, and there are different challenges that present themselves every day.  

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

K: It is definitely hardest when the students push back and take their bottled-up emotions out on you. It is hard to be told that you are disliked, but the reason they really dislike you is because you are pushing them to be the best version of themselves that they possibly can. They always come around, and you are able to find a good resolution with them. Sometimes, you just have to be their emotional punching bag and take it. My greatest advice for this job is that you cannot take anything they say personally. 

B: The most challenging part of being a Family Teacher is when a student is struggling, and you can’t fix the issue or make things better for them.

What motivates you to come to work everyday?

K: My relationship with the students is my main motivation. I get to teach them lessons that I wish someone taught me when I was their age. I get to help in a long-term way and have the joy of being able to watch these girls learn, mature, and grow. 

How would you describe the culture of CRA?

K: I love my work environment as a whole and that is primarily due to my coworkers. My coworkers are all so compassionate and genuinely care about one another. I know that if I need anything that I can go to any number of them, even if we are not super close. It is just a group of good people who work stressful jobs together. In the job, there is a lot that staff is put through and those moments are what bring us together most. There is no fear of supervisors, and I feel I can be honest with them and they respect and help me in any way that they can. CRA promotes the importance of community because we really do need one another. There are many opportunities to build community and feel supported. One of my favorite things is what is called “round table” in which staff from all departments are invited to come and talk about real issues, struggles, and joys with others and receive genuine support and advice that you may not have otherwise gotten. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

K: Being able to share my faith and have it received has been incredible. Also, being able to watch each student struggle and make mistakes and learn from them. There is nothing like being able to watch the progression of a student’s behavior, relationships, mental health get better and more manageable. 

B: The most rewarding part of being a Family Teacher is when the students have breakthroughs in their program. It’s great to see the progress they make and the excitement and pride they have in their successes.

Do you have a favorite moment with a student you would like to share?

K: I recently had a favorite moment with a student in which they asked me about my testimony and I was able to tell it and just tell of the wonders Jesus has worked in my life. It stemmed into a conversation about casting your burden on the Lord, what eternity will look like, why the earth is so hard if God is really there, and surrendering yourself to Him. This student asked great questions and was so attentive. I actually got to serve makeshift communion to her upon her request. She told me the next day that she fully surrendered to God, and she just had an overwhelming feeling of peace and internal happiness that had never been felt before. 

I also got to take some girls to an event in which they had over 1,000 prom dresses that they were giving away for free. I got to take my group of girls, and we all tried on dresses together and took one home with us to have for our upcoming prom! It was a very fun and girly day, and it was so rewarding to be able to see my girls glow with happiness, and you could tell they truly felt beautiful.

Seen, Known, and Loved

Recently in chapel services here at Compass Rose, we have been looking at the outcast people of the Bible and God’s interactions with them. Again and again, we come to see that God is intentional with the people society has counted less than, and He continually invites them into relationship. He is saying “I see you, I know you, and I love you.” So far we have specifically looked at how He speaks to Hagar in Genesis 21, the crippled woman in Luke 8, and famously, the woman at the well in John 4. 

The problem with John 4 and the story of the woman at the well is that so many of us have heard this story since childhood. We read the first couple of lines and then we skip over it or mentally check out when we hear it preached. We’ve figured that we have heard it a million times before, and the sermons, stories, and blog posts all seem to be the same, reflecting the same couple of messages, so this one won’t be any different. This is the very reason as a teacher you want to choose a different Scripture, one that might be more engaging or might hold your audience’s attention a little longer. Nonetheless, I think that this very reality is something that Jesus addresses with this woman at the heat of noon at a well in the Ancient Near East.

As the story continues, we see that the woman continually meets Jesus from a logical standpoint. First, she does not understand why Jesus is talking to her at all (4:9), as logically and historically, it does not make sense. Next, she thinks this man needs to learn the basic fundamentals on how to get water from a well (4:11-12). Logically, He is still not making sense. Then, after things start to get a little too personal, she tries to confront Him on the fundamentals of worship laws (4:19-20). Religiously, she’s trying to get the attention off herself and prove what she knows. Again and again, Jesus challenges her perspective, and yet she only ever engages Him on a logical or religious front. It doesn’t make any sense. Living water? How? Worship in spirit and truth? How? 

The problem seems to be that the woman was stuck in her tradition. She was hung up on what she believed should be true and could not begin to understand a reality that was different than that. Jesus was content to engage her knowledge, as He sat with her and had a conversation, but it becomes very clear that they are talking on two different levels. She is caught up in how it ought to look and wrapped up in what she thought the Scriptures said and the people believed, but all the while, He was trying to get to her heart. 

We often do this with Jesus. We go to church and we recite all the answers, and we gain all the knowledge, but Christ is never able to make the journey to our hearts. Sometimes that is very intentional because we think we have all the right answers, and despite all that, Jesus is not doing anything for me. Other times, we are not conscious of the great divide, and we are left confused on why Jesus seems so distant in the middle of our deepest struggles. It has often been expressed that the biggest gap in all humanity is between the head and the heart, and Jesus stands at the door and desires to make that journey with each one of us. This often means we have to lay down what we think we already know about Jesus. This often means we have to admit to the utter chaos that reigns within us. For Christ to deal with our hearts, we have to be honest with the condition our hearts are in. 

The women at the well had to admit to Jesus that she was indeed living in sin and had been for a while now. She had to pause long enough and lay aside what she thought should be and allow Christ to work on her heart and not just her brain. She was not only a Samaritan, who were outcasts, but her inner and life struggles had also outcasted her. She was the lowest of low, not even societies unwanted wanted to associate with her. Yet, Jesus showed up and sought to engage her in real conversation about the condition of her brokenness. She was left with the task of listening to this man and had to come to accept that what He was saying might have to do with something that was far deeper than what she had ever understood before.

We are confronted with the same task. Will we deal with Jesus honestly? He is desiring to commune with us — are we letting Him into more than just our heads? Knowing all the right answers and consuming all the right information about Jesus will only get us so far on the journey of faith. Eventually, we will be lost within and more consumed by chaos than we are by His peace, because we’ve kept Christ out of the center of our lives and far from the redemptive work He is desiring to do in our hearts. Before Jesus even began to engage her in conversation, He knew all the ugliness that dwelt within her heart and still desired to be close to her. We often disqualify ourselves from intimate relationship with Christ because of our track record. And to that Jesus says, “I see you, I know you, and I desire you all the same.” The problem often isn’t that Christ does not want us, but that we deal far too much in our shame and do not want ourselves. We become convinced that we need to present a certain reality of ourselves to be loved because that is the only reality of ourselves that we think is lovable, so how could anyone else love what we don’t love? To this, Jesus invites us all to know He sees us, He knows us, and He loves us. 

~By CRA Student Chaplain LilyAnn Matchett

Compass Rose Academy Cuts Ribbon on MKS Pavilion

Compass Rose Academy (CRA) held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, August 26th at 10:00am to celebrate the completion of their new MKS Pavilion. The pavilion was generously donated by Michael Kinder & Sons (MKS), who has partnered with CRA to build their new campus, which opened in 2021. Speakers included Ron Evans, President and CEO of Compass Rose Academy, Mike Haarer, Vice President and Executive Director of Compass Rose Academy, and Doug Kinder, President of Michael Kinder & Sons.

“The MKS Pavilion provides a beautiful outdoor space for students, staff, and families to gather and enjoy a variety of meals and activities throughout the spring, summer, and fall,” said Haarer. “Our campus is so blessed to have this and other outdoor spaces that provide the opportunity for connection, healing, and fun, all while taking in the beauty of nature.” 

“In our business, I look at things as more than just buildings. What’s going to happen inside this pavilion we are passing on to you, from the young ladies to the families to the staff, is going to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” said Kinder.

CRA is looking forward to using this space at their upcoming alumni reunion, where they will also celebrate their 10th anniversary. 

Bringing the Stage to CRA

Compass Rose Academy is going to be immersed in a little drama this year. 

By that, of course, we mean that CRA students now have the option to participate in our new Theater Arts elective offering, which was created after students expressed interest in the topic.

“We noticed last year in our English Language Arts and Creative Writing courses that our girls really enjoyed reading and acting out plays,” said Charles Eichman, the course instructor. “It just seemed natural to respond to the inherent interest, especially as it works well with our Creative Writing course, which is all about writing for stage and screen.”

The new elective will cover a broad range of the theater experience, including acting, improvisation, scriptwriting, theater history, and basic stagecraft. There are no current plans for a school show just yet, but, as Eichman noted, “You never know. All you need for theater is people, space, and time.”

We are excited for this new venture in our efforts to encourage students’ choice, intellectual curiosity, and, ultimately, ownership of their education as integral parts of their academic progress.

Understanding the Connection Between Addiction and Attachment

During a recent webinar, Dr. Jerry Davis shared with constituents of Compass Rose Academy research on addiction through the lens of trauma and attachment. He began by sharing a research experiment done by Dr. Bruce Alexander (1977) from Simon Frazier University. In this study, the researchers developed 2 spaces for rats. The first, which they called “Rat Park,” had painted walls, scenes of woodlands, and natural environments. They used fragrant shavings on the floor for rats to nest in and scattered boxes and cans around for the rats to hide and play in, as well as gave the rats other rats to interact with. Conversely, the second rat space consisted of a cage, without colorful scenery, toys, or other rats. Next, the researchers introduced morphine to both the “Rat Park” and to cages with individual rats. 

What the researchers observed was profound: those rats alone in cages seemed happy to drift into a drugged state and partook in the morphine, while those rats in the “Rat Park” largely left the morphine untouched, seeming to prefer not to interrupt their social life with the morphine’s effects (1977). 

Dr. Davis asks “What if the difference between not being addicted and being addicted was the difference between seeing the world as your park… and seeing the world as your cage?” (Davis, 2022). He cites Mate (2022) as he educates that childhood pain is generally the source of addiction, either from bad things happening that shouldn’t, or good things not happening as a result of the parents’/caregivers’ emotional capacity. Whatever the circumstance, addictions “are an attempt to regulate an unbearable internal emotional state through external means” (Davis, 2022). 

For me, this experiment and its findings, while profound, were not a surprise. We are wired for connection! Of course the rats that had other rats to interact with in warm, playful environments thrived. In application, we need to find out not only how to build these robust and relational environments for struggling teens, but also how to help the clients see that these environments exist and are within their reach. To do so, we have to go beneath the surface (thoughts and behaviors) to the source (feelings and experiences) and build back in those elements lost. Trauma happens in relationships, and healing does as well. 

By Director of Admissions Madeline Spring, MA, LMHC

The Biblical Basis for Reality

Our Growth Model at Compass Rose Academy focuses on building on inner resources, as opposed to aiming at symptom reduction, to improve functioning. This approach to therapeutic growth has been shown to demonstrate longer-lasting effects than brief cognitive therapy, where there can often be short-term gains followed by diminished returns. The inner resources that the Growth Model targets are drawn from a developmental lens and are called Bonding, Boundaries, Reality, and Competence: 

Bonding – The ability to relate to God and others, to connect to something outside of yourself. All of life’s tasks are based on this ability and with it, you are never left without a way to meet your needs.

Boundaries – The ability to see oneself as separate from others and therefore own your life as your responsibility.

Reality – The ability to hold onto and pursue your ideals while accepting, forgiving, and redeeming the imperfection you encounter in yourself, others, and the world around you.

Competence – The ability to be productive in the world and to contribute meaningfully to others in a significant way.

The theoretical basis for the idea of “reality” comes from the clinical concept of “integration.” Integration means that as one progresses through the developmental stages of bonding (attaching to caregivers) and boundaries (individuation, experiencing oneself as separate from others), they next develop the capacity to hold both the “good” and “bad” parts of themselves, others, and the world around them. They can begin to experience that the same parent can at times be warm and nurturing, while at other times they may be angry and impatient. As the capacity for integration develops, we gain a sense of our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, I may be good at math, but poor at drawing. We also become in tune with various parts of ourselves. I develop awareness of my sad feelings, angry feelings, and happy feelings, recognizing that they are all different, valuable parts of myself. When we don’t develop this capacity to experience these various parts of ourselves and others, we tend to split off or hide parts of ourselves. We are also likely to put some people on a pedestal (the people who most exhibit the qualities we like) and devalue others (such as those who have hurt us in some way). We experience ourselves and others as “good” or “bad” instead of whole, integrated people with many unique parts. Experiencing ourselves and the world in this way sets us up for many personal and relational struggles, while developing the capacity for integration, or “reality,” builds the strength we need to face life’s challenges. 

A quote by pastor, author, and theologian Timothy Keller captures the essence of this really well. He said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” He’s saying that the more we are fully known by God and others (good and bad parts alike), the more whole we become. As early as the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), we see the tendency of humans to hide when we experience the reality of our sin, shame, or “badness.” Instead, God calls us to come out of hiding and into the healing light of relationship where those hidden parts (shame, sin, “negative emotions,” etc.) can receive love, nurturance, and healing. In the New Testament, James calls believers to confess their sins to one another in order that they may receive healing (James 5:16). This is evidence of a spiritual principle – that our sin, shame, and internal struggles can destroy us from the inside out, but that when we bring them into relationship with God and others, we are free. King David is a great example of this. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, he comes out of hiding and confesses his sin before God and seeks restoration (Psalm 51).  

What does this mean for each of us today? Here are some primary takeaways: 

  • Begin to see that “negative emotions” like anger or sadness are important indicators of something going on. Instead of pushing them away and hiding them because they are “bad,” begin to put words to those emotions with safe, dependable relationships where you can find grace for what is going on below the surface. 
  • As scary as it can sound, begin to make vulnerability and openness a more consistent part of your life and relationships. Instead of feeling like you have to perform to be liked or accepted, foster relationships that are willing to go below the surface and connect authentically with you, in your strengths and weaknesses. Move from seeing yourself as “good” or “bad” to “fully known, fully loved.” This might mean initiating a “coffee group” where you share more intentionally beyond surface-level niceties. 

Identify your ideal self, that is, the version of yourself that you compare yourself to. If you’re constantly feeling like you’re not enough, it means that you don’t measure up to some constructed version of yourself. Begin to let go of and grieve that idealized version of yourself, and instead choose to accept yourself as you are. If we “know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16), it means believing that we will never be more loved by God than we are right now.

Save the Date: Alumni Reunion 2022

Save the date for our upcoming 2022 Alumni Reunion on September 23 and 24! The weekend will begin with dinner on Friday and conclude Saturday evening. 

This annual event was created out of CRA alumni’s desire to receive ongoing support and stay connected with the community they built with other parents and students during their time at CRA, in addition to the optional monthly alumni calls. Similar to parent weekend, the alumni track will feature some activities for parents and students to do together, along with individualized programming for parents and students. 

“We know that the parents’ journey of supporting their daughter doesn’t end the day they graduate from Compass Rose. It’s important to us to offer a way for parents to stay connected so they feel an ongoing sense of community and support,” said Mike Haarer, Vice President and Executive Director. 

This year’s event will be particularly special as we will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Compass Rose Academy!

Registration will be opening soon. We hope you will join us on our new campus for this special time together!

The Academy at Compass Rose Achieves ACSI Accreditation

Here at Compass Rose Academy, we are regularly seeking new ways to meet the needs of our students. This is why we built our new, intentionally designed campus, and why we implemented Project Based Learning in The Academy. Both these initiatives were part of what led to our recent accreditation through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).

ACSI is an internationally recognized accreditation program that aids schools in evaluating their academic excellence and spiritual formation.

“This accreditation is an amazing accomplishment for our school. It helps to ensure that we are consistently reflecting and working to improve in all areas of the school’s operation. It places an emphasis on how we’re supporting students academically and spiritually and also including outside stakeholders in this process. Many team members worked collaboratively to help ensure that this process was a smooth one, and we learned a lot in the process,” said Katherine Kelly, Academic Director. 

 Last fall, The Academy at Compass Rose hosted a visiting team from ACSI. In preparation for this visit, The Academy engaged in an extensive self-study in which we evaluated our current progress in a variety of areas such as governance, academics, spiritual formation, student care, and instructional programming. Based on the results from this visit, Compass Rose Academy was granted full accreditation by ACSI. Compass Rose Academy is committed to continuously providing high quality, Christian education and programming for our students. 

The Academy at Compass Rose embraces a project-based learning approach, encouraging students’ choice, intellectual curiosity, and, ultimately, ownership of their education as integral parts of their progress. Our students also have the opportunity to take accelerated college-level courses online through Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global while at Compass Rose in order to earn credits toward both their high school diploma and future college degree simultaneously.

The Academy at CRA is honored to be accredited by ACSI, and we are excited for what this accreditation will mean for our future as an organization and the futures of our students!

Bonding: Soothing Self through Holy Memories of God’s Faithfulness

In the midst of life’s trials, we often find ourselves worn out and asking questions: “Why is this happening to me? What am I supposed to do?” We may even question God: “Where is God in this? How could He let this happen?” Sometimes, we are so deep in a pit of despair and questions of why, we feel unable to move forward. However, God has instilled within us the ability for deeper connection and healing by way of self-soothing.

Beginning with a series of questions that are relatable to our own hardships, Psalm 13 gives voice to our pain: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-3). What is interesting about this Psalm is that after asking these questions and boldly approaching the Lord, the Psalmist then says, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praises, for you have been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6). The Psalmist makes a choice! He does not choose to stay stuck in his hurt, brokenness, and despair; rather, he recalls memories of past times God had been good to him. He recalls when God had provided, had comforted, and had helped him. Then, he chooses to sing!

In a devotional book on the Psalms, the authors write: “Christians must cultivate holy memories of God’s work in history and in our lives, which alone can sustain us in the times of despair and darkness. Christ’s obedience to go to the cross was made possible through such holy memories” (p. 20). In times of need, we are able to recall times of God’s faithfulness and internalize His provision. But wait, it gets better! God has not only created us to do this with Him, but also with each other! Even if a loved one is not physically with us, we can draw on our relationship with that person and are able to feel the warmth of their connection and their presence. We are equipped to soothe ourselves because of our ability to build relationships with others.

Whatever challenge and pit you are currently in, know that you are able to bring light to your darkness not only by recalling God’s goodness but also by seeking comfort from both past and present relationships.

-Marissa Pollard, MA, LMFT, RPT

Tennent, T. and J. (2017). A meditative journey through the psalms. Seedbed Publishing. Franklin, TN.

Created in His Image

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness…God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26a, 27

In the course of two verses, the writer of Genesis conveys four different times that humankind was made in the image or likeness of God, emphasizing the importance of this concept. Humanity was made to reflect its Creator!                                                                                     

When I was a child I used to hear these verses and wonder what physical part of my body was like God. Do I have His eyes? His chin shape? His feet? To hear the words “made in his image” constantly made me wonder what part of me might look like him. My mind could only comprehend “image” in the form of how I might draw a portrait or take a picture of someone. As I have grown, I have come to know that when God created us at the foundation of the world He was not seeking to make us look like Him in a physical sense, but rather in a spiritual sense. His desire was not to give us His nose, but rather give us His heart. It is clear by pure repetition that the author wanted to make sure readers did not miss this point. Humanity, you and I, were created to have a certain heart, certain desires, and certain longings in life. The issue is not that we were made this way, the issue is that the enemy has corrupted this message and worked hard to teach us something vastly different. 

Moments after we read about the intention of the Creator for humanity to reflect Him, we learn of how things went drastically wrong. As a product of the fall, humanity is now at war with the idea that we are meant to reflect our creator. We are now convinced that to be all that we are meant to be entails selfish gain for me, myself, and I. The only way to my true self is to listen to my emotions, do what’s best for me, and climb my way to whatever I feel is right. Ironically, the effort to become our “true selves” often leads us into a downward spiral. We become everything to all people or nothing to no one. We become immersed in a community, yet all alone, or at the top of the corrupt ladder and left wondering why we feel so empty. We start to lose ourselves in our careers or our families or our hobbies and cannot tell who we actually are. This is because we were never meant to live in a way that reflects our own desires, but rather the desires of our Creator. 

Let me propose that becoming all we were meant to be does not mean tapping into some deeper reality of ourselves, but it means getting to know our Creator. The trick is we often work to create some formula in our Christian walk. We say, “Well, I need X (success, contentment, a happy family), so let me do Y (Church and moral living) + Z (volunteering and donating money) and hope that the odds play out in my favor.” We wander through our Christian walk hoping for the best because we are giving our best, and then we are drastically confused when our kid still has cancer, or our family still hates one another. Our Christian walk is not about the good life, but about becoming who we were created to be — a reflection of the Creator. To become that, we do not need a formula or a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, we need to get to know our Creator. We cannot become like someone we do not know. If I do not know my Creator’s heart through the reading of His Word and the involvement in His Kingdom, then I am forever going to be hopelessly striving to be something I have never seen. 

Here at Compass Rose, we reflect on this idea that as human beings we are created uniquely. This is the beauty of creation, that we are all made in His image, yet because He is so vast and beyond our comprehension, I could not possibly reflect all of Him, but rather I need my neighbor and their uniqueness to help me get to know my God more. So to be human is to be created in the image of God, and in my Christian walk, I must work at reflecting that image by getting to know Him and getting to know His people. Together, we can come to reflect Him as we were meant to and show Him to the world around us. That is Kingdom work. 

By LilyAnn Matchett, CRA Student Chaplain

History Modernized: A Project-Based Learning Experience

The Academy at Compass Rose continues to be dedicated to providing authentic project-based learning experiences for our students. Recently, students enrolled in The Academy’s World History class were tasked with choosing a historical figure to research. Upon completion of their research, each of the students were asked to write a script in a podcast format and present it to an audience. The students researched and examined the typical format of a podcast prior to drafting their own. This project ended with each student performing their script with a partner before peers and staff members, in an attempt to both effectively inform and entertain their audience. Their peers and staff members then had the opportunity to critique the performance and provide feedback to the various groups. 

Mr. Eichman, the social studies teacher at The Academy, does an excellent job at interweaving the components of project-based learning into his core curriculum. For this project specifically, he provided choices which helped to generate interest and buy-in from the students. In addition, the students generated a public product that they were able to share with an audience. By creating a podcast, students also had the ability to be creative in how they presented the content. In speaking with a ninth grade student enrolled in World History, she stated “Personally, I enjoyed being able to interweave modern day humor into a historical segment to peak the audience’s interest.”

Upon reflecting on this project, Mr. Eichman stated, “The girls had to work hard to not only include pertinent information, but express it in a conversational tone, like you would hear in a contemporary interview.” This project was aimed at developing skills such as creativity, in-depth content knowledge, presentation skills, written expression and critiquing their work based on feedback from others. An effective project-based learning experience also interweaves multiple disciplines, and this project did just that. Students had opportunities to practice both their English Language Arts skills while gaining valuable content knowledge in History as well. 

CRA Welcomes Jenna York as New Residential Director

Compass Rose Academy is excited to welcome Jenna York as the new Residential Director!  

Jenna began serving in her new role in March. Prior to Compass Rose, Jenna worked at Meridian Health Services as a therapist, LMHC, and clinical supervisor providing therapy to adolescents, young adults, and families with trauma history, depression, anxiety, behavioral concerns, and severe mental illness. Jenna’s passion for residential treatment began at a young age as her parents were houseparents at George Junior Republic, a residential facility in Gas City, IN, where they lived on campus.

“My career has been focused on working with adolescent girls who have experienced trauma or are dealing with depression, anxiety, and family struggles. I feel CRA has opened a door for me to work within a leadership role, but is also allowing me to still work closely with the population I thrive working with,” said Jenna.

Jenna holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Indiana Wesleyan University and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling from Grace College. She and her husband, Adam, have three children: Malachi, Madelyn and Lincoln. She enjoys having movie nights with her family, playing and coaching volleyball, and being outside. 

The Biblical Basis for Boundaries

I remember really questioning the idea of boundaries early in my adult life. Is it really biblical to have and assert boundaries as a Christian? Did Jesus model boundaries? I thought of the scripture in Matthew where he said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (NIV, Matthew 5:39-40). What does it look like as a Christian to have a strong “No” when our model for living is to give the shirt off our back? 

So, first of all, what do we really mean when we talk about having strong boundaries? Developmentally, having strong boundaries means that we have a strong sense of who we are and what we stand for. It’s a result of the early developmental stage, individuation, that directly follows attachment. In this way, we develop a strong foundation for life through safe, meaningful relationships right before we begin to understand and assert who we are as an independent, separate being from others. 

God designed our lives to be this way. He calls us first to a life of meaningful connections (with Him and others) that are stabilizing, energizing, enriching, and growth-producing. Secondly, He actually does call us to a life of boundaries. We are designed to know who we are and what we stand for. God wants us to be rooted securely in Him and who He has made us to be. The more secure we are in our identity and beliefs as an individual, the less we are like an infant, “tossed back and forth by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14). To live a life of faithful following, we must know who we are apart from others. To not be conformed to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2) means that we are rooted securely in our identity as children of God. 

I think that if we are letting everyone slap us on the cheek and take the shirts off of our backs as a pattern in our lives, there might be an indication of poor boundaries. But I also think it’s clear that that was not Christ’s example. So, I realize now that giving the shirt off of our backs can actually be the most boundaried thing we could do. If I’m secure in who I am, then others’ actions don’t define me. I give because I am giving. I love because God first loved me. I sacrifice because I’ve been a recipient of the ultimate sacrifice. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it means to have boundaries as a Christian or even just in general, I challenge you to lean in and explore this identity piece. Who are you as a separate person from others? What defines you? How do decide when to give freely out of a place of love and when it’s the right time to say “no,” also out of a place of love?