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Finding Purpose and Growing in Competence

As we head into our Competence themed Parent Weekend, there are a few questions I have been reflecting on. 1- What is my purpose? This is a question that we all have or will wrestle with in our lifetime. 2 – How do I know if I have achieved competence (or adulthood) and is that even possible? Becoming an adult can be a scary part of life, but if it is done well, it will set you up to live empowered and make life good.

Growing in competence means discovering and feeling confident in your PTIs (passions, talents and interests.) It also involves pursuing ways to intentionally use your PTI’s to impact others and the world. This looks like doing what you love and what brings you joy and purpose. 

A rival to competence is the ‘victim’ stance. I know I have been guilty of blaming other people or my circumstance on things not being how I want them. Certainly other people and our circumstances impact us as we cannot control others, but we can control ourselves and how we respond. We can step into power by saying, “I am responsible for myself and getting my needs met.”

Another aspect of competence is seeing healthy authority as good, understanding that respecting authority is a choice, and recognizing that authority’s role in our lives is not about power and control. Instead of rebelling against authority, we seek ways to make healthy changes. Take note: parents’ authority over their kids is about influence, not control. I think of Jesus and how he could easily make us do what he wants, but instead He invites us to make a free choice. Over and over, He invited people to come near (and still does), and He lived a life of influence and not control. Jesus knew what He stood for and lived His life according to His purpose.

Competence can feel like we have to have everything figured out, but even adults don’t always know what they are doing. It is both daunting and empowering to say, “I have the ability to make my life good.” To answer my question; can competence be achieved? I think no, but isn’t that what makes this life good? The saying goes “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well I say, you can. What’s something you have always wanted to learn? What’s a healthy risk you’ve been too afraid to take? In what ways have you been playing victim instead of taking your power? What authority are you rebelling against instead of  seeing your freedom of choice? My final question to you is this: how are you going to make your life good today? 


By Jenny Pease, MA, CRA Therapist

Josiah White’s and Compass Rose Academy Announce Matthew Purkey as New President and CEO

Josiah White’s and Compass Rose Academy are excited to welcome Matthew Purkey as their new President and Chief Executive Officer. He replaces President & CEO Ron Evans, who will retire upon the transition after almost 6 years of service to the organization. Matthew will begin in his new role on October 2, 2023.

Josiah White’s Board of Trustees and Succession Planning committee have been preparing for the change in leadership upon the announcement of Evans’ retirement. After a comprehensive and national search, they appointed Matthew Purkey in the fall of 2023 to fill the role.  

“We are so excited to have Matthew Purkey and his wife, Amanda, officially join Josiah White’s team. It has been a pleasure for the trustees to work alongside Ron and Matthew throughout the transition period,” said Brandt Downing, chairman of Josiah White’s Board of Trustees. “Matthew has an incredible heart for our mission and is dedicated to helping children and families in crisis.” 

Purkey has years of service experience from his time in the United States Marine Corps, leadership at multiple United Way organizations, and most recently from a veterans service organization where he led 59 operations across 48 locations nationwide.

Purkey earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from Campbell University and a master’s degree in human services from Liberty University. He has earned professional certificates from Harvard Business School, Deloitte University, and the Center for Creative Leadership. Purkey is a PhD candidate in Strategic Leadership, a featured TedX speaker, and has received multiple 40 Under 40 awards. In addition, Purkey has served on numerous volunteer boards including The Fisher House, The Victory Project, and is a Team Rubicon Grey Shirt.

When asked what excites him most about taking on the President and CEO role at Josiah White’s, Purkey said, “I am nothing more than a product of the redeeming love and power of God. Now, I have the honor of serving on an established and accomplished team that extends that same opportunity to others.”

Matthew and his wife, Amanda, have three children, Micah, Ezekiel, and Gabriel.

Compass Rose Academy Welcomes New Vice President of Human Resources

Compass Rose Academy and Josiah White’s are excited to welcome Brandee Estes as the new Vice President of Human Resources.

Brandee formerly served Josiah White’s from 2002 through 2012, beginning as a Human Resource Assistant and leaving as the Director of Human Resources. For the past eleven years, she has served in progressive HR roles at Marion General Hospital and Manchester University.  

I feel called back to Josiah White’s because I believe in their mission, and I love that there is a supportive community of people working toward the same goal,” said Brandee.

Brandee holds both a bachelor’s and master’s in management from Indiana Wesleyan University. Additionally, she has earned HR certifications from both The Human Resources Certification Institute and the Society of Human Resource Management.

Brandee and her husband Jeff have been married for 30 years and have raised two children and have three grandchildren.

Summer Parent Weekend Recap

Every quarter, Compass Rose hosts a weekend for parents to come spend time with their daughter, meet the staff, and learn and grow. Each Parent Weekend focuses on a different core capacity of our Growth Model, and this summer’s event focused on Reality. Reality is the ability to hold onto and pursue your ideals while accepting, forgiving, and redeeming the imperfections you encounter in yourself, others, and the world around you. 

Throughout the weekend, Mike Haarer, VP and Executive Director, and Madeline Spring, Outreach Director, led educational sessions covering various topics including an introduction to the Growth Model, the core capacity of Reality, grieving losses, and neutralizing the harsh judge (also known as our inner critic). 

This is one current student’s experience of what she and her family learned during this summer’s Parent Weekend:

“My family’s personal favorite was the session on “grieving losses”. My mom is a “fixer” and tends to feel an urgency to meet my needs and fix my problems. This session really helped her to acknowledge and grieve my losses rather than immediately trying to solve them. It also helped me for my mom to say “I acknowledge that ___ is really hard for you and I am sorry ___ happened”, rather than “lets just do _____ so ____ is no longer happening.” I feel as if our normal human response is to immediately try to solve problems when they come up rather than sitting in them and really acknowledging our feelings related to and caused by the problem. 

Another key takeaway from the weekend for me personally was the kintsugi art project. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.  This activity helped me to acknowledge that showing others our brokenness is beautiful, and in order to gain support to overcome our weaknesses, we have to bring them to light and share them with others. That concept is always something that I personally struggle with because I feel as if our natural human tendency is to hide our struggles into the darkness, rather than bring them into the light.”

These weekends are often one of the highlights of the Compass Rose experience for our families, and we look forward to our next Parent Weekend on September 21-24 which will focus on the core capacity of Competence. 

All God’s Creatures

Just before writing this, my husband, my dog, and I were all sitting outside. After laying in the sunshine for a while, our dog got too hot and went into the shade of our open garage. My husband then got her fresh water, which she drank immediately. He then reflected on the joy of being able to meet the need of an animal and that doing so is part of what we are called to as God’s children. Taking care of an animal brings life and a sense of purpose. Students at Compass Rose get to participate in this same God-given task through interacting with the therapy dogs on campus and with the horses at equine therapy. 

At CRA, one of our core beliefs is that people are created for connection. Dogs are similar in that way. Ancestrally, they existed in packs, and therefore met the needs of their pack. Dogs were dependent on their pack to care for them, and, in turn, they protected the members of their pack. Petting a dog releases dopamine, a hormone responsible for feeling pleasure, and oxytocin, a hormone essential in building trust. Simultaneously, petting dogs also neutralizes cortisol, a hormone responsible for stress. As staff and students healthily relate to the dogs, and they to staff and students, a stronger connection of pleasure and trust is built.  

CRA’s therapy dogs, Onyx, Opal, and Ruby, engage with students in group therapy, individual and family therapy, and in the home’s day-to-day activities. Students will often request a dog in the home or to be in a therapy session. In the home, students walk the dogs and play with them. Students experience great joy when the dogs wag their tails in excitement to see them. When in a therapy session, most often the dogs will lay down in the therapist’s office. Just knowing the dog is in the room can offer peace and comfort to a student. Other times, the dog will sense stress and will snuggle close to the student, and she will pet the dog as she needs comfort or out of happiness. As they use the dog to regulate their body and emotions, students can then ask for what they need relationally from staff and/or peers. Furthermore, if a student is not caring for the dogs well, staff can offer feedback and teach students how to do this in a mutually beneficial way. 

Just about every morning, I get to hear the pitter-patter of a dogs’ feet coming down the hall to my office. Dopamine is activated, and I immediately feel excited to see them. I pet them, talk to them, perhaps even give them a treat. I also know that if ever I need to regulate, I can find them in the workroom where they are waiting to play fetch. 

In addition to their interactions with the therapy dogs, students attend equine therapy once a week, though during the summer they attend more frequently. They are paired with a horse and are empowered to build a trusting relationship with their horse. Most students are disappointed to learn they will not actually ride the horse, mainly because students use ponies or mini-horses. While riding a horse is fun, it is not necessary for building trust in the therapeutic process. Instead, students are trained to feed, groom, and lead their horse in activities and obstacles. They are acting in their purpose to care for the animals. This allows students to overcome fear, develop confidence, and increase their self-esteem. 

The human brain operates on “guilty until proven innocent.” This means the brain deems the world “unsafe” until it is able to create and maintain safety. The amygdala in the human brain is responsible for the Fight-Flight-Freeze response. Horses’ brains are similar. This makes the relationship between a horse and a student crucial. As a horse learns that the student is safe, they will have a solid foundation of trust, and both the horse’s and the student’s brain simultaneously learn they are mutually “not guilty.” As a student learns this with horses, she internalizes she can develop safety with human-human relationships. One exercise done with the horses specifically has the intent of building trust: picking up the horse’s hoof. Horses cannot see their feet, so to allow a student to do this is to trust that the student has the horse’s best interest in mind. 

Horses also have an ability to mirror body language and even emotions. People do the same thing! A dysregulated adult cannot regulate a dysregulated child. However, by an adult regulating their body, a child will also “mirror” this via mirror neurons and regulate themselves. A horse can sense if a student is dysregulated. The horse and student will engage in activities in order to regulate together. Students describe horses as “a pal to talk to” in that the horse cannot talk back. The horse will not tell anyone the secrets that have been shared, but instead is a safe bouncing board for students. 

The obstacles and activities instill confidence in the students and assist them in knowing how to set and maintain boundaries. Students often reflect on what they have learned in a boundaries-building exercise at equine therapy and apply it to their current peer-to-peer or familial relationships. Through equine therapy, they develop a sense of belonging, identity, and an ability to connect with others. 

I even have a goldfish named Kevin in my office. Students talk to Kevin and, when feeling dysregulated, will watch him swim. One student has even cleaned his tank. 

While I cannot speak to the extent of the therapeutic benefits of fish, I can further encourage the innate instinct to care for animals. Part of our purpose as humans is to care for creation. When students engage in animal-assisted therapy, it awakens that vocation within them. It calls them back to Eden. Whether it be a horse, a dog, the cows on campus, a goldfish, or another animal, students are giving care to something outside of themselves. They are tending to God’s creatures, and therefore, nurturing and healing their innermost being.  


-By Compass Rose Academy Therapist Marissa Pollard, MA, LMFT, RPT

Registration Now Open for 2023 Alumni Family Reunion

Save the date for our upcoming 2023 Alumni Reunion on September 22 and 23! 

We would love to have you join us for a weekend of reconnecting with other CRA Alumni. The weekend will coincide with our Fall Parent Weekend and will kick off with an outdoor dinner with food trucks, live music, and outdoor games. On Saturday, we’ll again have specific alumni parent and alumni student tracks to allow time for parents to reconnect and gain helpful information and encouragement. On Saturday evening, there will be an optional Alumni Social off-campus. 

“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. 

Click here to register. We hope you will join us on our campus for this special time together!

A Seat at the Table

In 2 Samuel 9, we encounter an unlikely story in the kingdom of Israel. We find King David in the beginning of his reign extending an unlikely invitation to an unlikely candidate. Shortly after David takes the throne from the family of Saul, we expect to find him seeking to firmly establish his reign by wiping out all of Saul’s family. So when we read in 2 Samuel 9 that he was calling for Saul’s descendants, we should be holding our breath for the murder that is about to take place. Instead, we experience the opposite: David is seeking Saul’s family not to condemn and kill for the furthering of his kingdom, but rather to extend grace and mercy for the sake of his former friendship with Saul’s son Johnathan. 

Let’s take just a moment to consider what it must have been like to be Johnathan’s son, Mephibosheth. The story tells us that he was crippled in both feet, because he was dropped as a child while fleeing from David himself. So he has grown up his whole life not only in exile, but crippled, making him totally dependent on the people around him. The dreams of the royal family are long gone, and the riches that once would have been his are a distant memory. He has become identified by his crippled feet and ashamed by his heritage being that of the former king. He probably grew up with a very real fear that King David might discover he is still alive and then choose to kill him in order for his own kingdom gain. 

It may feel like we can’t relate with the story. Not many of us can relate to living in a kingdom and fearing for our lives by the hand of the king, but in a very real sense Mephiboseth represents a very deep reality we all find ourselves in at some point in life. We’ve all been crippled by the realities of sin in our lives, we all have experienced the ways in which the world is not right, and there is something within us that is not right. We are crippled and helpless to get out of the situation alone. Often, as a result of our crippled reality, we find ourselves in hiding. We attempt to hide how bad life really is, and we attempt to make light of our situation. We hide the parts that don’t look so good, or we cover up the areas of life that we have convinced ourselves no one will like. We hide our true identities and just hope no one figures out about the depression, the anger, the divorce, the diagnosis, or the past mistakes. If we can just get through life without the other people knowing, then maybe it will be alright. We spend so much energy hiding that we sometimes convince ourselves we aren’t really that crippled or that life isn’t really that bad. We just don’t talk about that one story or that one feeling. 

Mephiboseth’s story doesn’t end with him as an outcast in a kingdom that he was once meant to rule. Rather, when David discovers Mephiboseth is still alive, he invites him into his family. He fully knows who he is, the condition of his feet, and the reality of his heritage, yet none of that seems to matter. King David doesn’t bat an eye at all the things Mephiboseth has been working so hard to hide. He knows, and he still wants him to be part of the family. He does not just give him riches and send him on his way, but asks him to sit at the table every day and participate in the riches of the kingdom as if he still was of a royal heritage. Why? Simple because he is the son of David’s best friend, Johnathan. It was nothing that Mephiboseth did or ever would do but simply because of who he was. 

In all of our hiding, God invites us to his table. He seeks us out of the far edges and invites us to live a story that is not in hiding. A story that is not defined by our crippled condition or shameful past, but a story that is instead defined by who we are as children of the King. He not only restores us to riches, but invites us to sit at the table. Knowing fully the condition we are in, He comes and finds us, and when we expect death, He gives us abundant life. This is a picture of grace and mercy that is often beyond our comprehension. This is a reminder that we have a debt we cannot hope to repay but that Christ has cleared because of His work. The question is not, “Am I good enough to I have a seat at the table?” The question is, “Have I chosen to take my place at the table?” God is inviting us into His Kingdom, but we have to choose to leave our hiding and find our home in a place where the King fully knows and fully loves every aspect of who we are. Mephiboseth took a chance to accept a life he thought he would never have again. Will you too take a chance and leave your hiding place, and take your seat at the table?


By CRA Student Chaplain LilyAnn Matchett

Reimagining School Discipline

You hear it all the time in schools: detention, suspension, “silent” lunch, lost recess, and the list goes on. We are conditioned to think that this is the only way to handle school discipline, but is it the right way? 

According to the National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, “Punitive discipline does not improve student behavior or academic achievement. Students who have been suspended are significantly more likely to drop out of school and become involved in the juvenile justice system than their peers.” 

The Academy currently utilizes the Teaching Family Model for day-to-day classroom management within the school setting, and it has led to a significant increase in positive behaviors displayed by students at school. Students learn how to display skills such as following directions, accepting “no” for an answer, staying on task, and participating. This structure correlates with privileges in the home, which increases the school to home partnership and connection. 

However, sometimes behaviors can escalate which impede the learning of other classmates. When this happens, The Academy strives to issue consequences that are relevant and related to the behavior. The Academy is in the process of designing modules associated with specific behaviors in order to provide a structured teaching opportunity when a concern arises. Each module will include a teaching component, suggestions for replacement behaviors, and a task associated with it. 

The Academy is moving to correlated consequences that make sense to the behavior being exhibited. We value teaching the skills of how to work through undesired behaviors, so that students have the emotional regulation skills they need to succeed once they leave our program,” said Caitlin Cornett, Classroom Supervisor.

This revamp will also include incorporating restorative practices within the school setting. Sometimes, just like in our own families, hurt and harm can be caused within school communities. When this occurs, a restorative meeting would be issued in order for all parties to get together, discuss what harm was caused, and how each party felt during the incident. Restorative practices allow for students to restore psychological safety and feel seen and heard prior to re-entering the classroom. Other restorative practices may include service projects, re-entry circles, apology notes, etc. The goal is to reflect, restore, and reenter. 

“We’re really just trying to keep our kids in school. They’ve missed out on so much with COVID and sometimes prior placements, it just doesn’t make sense to take away something that our students have a right to. We want them here, and we want them to feel that,” says Katherine Kelly, Academic Director. 

By removing punitive approaches to classroom management, we seek to foster a greater sense of belonging and a positive learning environment for students. The Academy is on a journey of rethinking the “traditional” methods of classroom discipline and focusing on teaching the skills students need in order to be successful beyond life at Compass Rose Academy.


By Katherine Kelly, Compass Rose Academy Academic Director

Breaking the Stigma on Borderline Personality Disorder

Many of the students at Compass Rose exhibit Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) traits. The DSM-5 describes borderline personality disorder (BPD) as “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Symptoms can include but are not limited to: difficulty with interpersonal relationships, unstable and reactive mood, impulsivity, chronic feelings of emptiness, and stress-related paranoia. This can be a challenging situation for families to navigate, as society has unfortunately stigmatized mood disorders like BPD as unresolvable dysfunction.

Although there is no cure for BPD, there are effective treatment modalities available to manage symptoms. One such treatment is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an evidence-based approach that has been shown to reduce symptoms and improve their management. According to research, up to 77% of individuals no longer met the criteria for BPD after one year of treatment with DBT (MHS Online). This is a significant development for those with borderline personality traits, as it demonstrates that addressing trauma symptoms and maladaptive behaviors can lead to healing.

As believers, we can find encouragement in Isaiah 41:10,  which says, “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” BPD should not be seen as a death sentence, and it is important to break down the stigma surrounding this disorder every day by trusting in God’s guidance.

At Compass Rose, our primary objective is to help adolescents recognize the underlying factors contributing to their maladaptive behaviors. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder frequently experience hopelessness, fear of abandonment, and an unstable sense of self, leading them to act out in extreme ways in a desperate effort to establish connections. Our growth model at Compass Rose employs a distinctive approach to get to the “roots” of Borderline Personality Disorder, offering exceptional benefits to those living with the condition.

How the Growth Model Addresses BPD


Bonding plays a pivotal role within our program, as it empowers students to confront deep trust-related wounds, cultivate meaningful connections with others, embrace vulnerability, and enrich their capacity to relate authentically. For individuals grappling with BPD, navigating interpersonal relationships can be particularly challenging. However, by acquiring the skills to foster new, healthy connections, we offer a transformative opportunity for those living with this condition to embark on a revitalizing journey of connection and personal growth.


Boundaries serve as a crucial framework that establish expectations for both oneself and others, creating a definitive and empowering stance that effectively counteracts self-destructive tendencies. They play a vital role in defining healthy behaviors within relationships, establishing a solid foundation that fosters emotional well-being and preserves personal integrity. Particularly for individuals who may struggle with setting limits as seen in borderline personality disorder, boundaries provide a much-needed structure that promotes stability, self-care, and improves one’s ability to be in relationship with others.


The concept of reality serves as a profound and indispensable element that guides students towards self-acceptance, fosters an understanding of the intricate tapestry of the world, and encourages compassion towards others they encounter. For students with BPD traits, their perception of reality can become distorted, rendering this component even more difficult. By delving into the depths of reality, we aim to instill a transformative realization: that one’s self-worth is not confined to a simplistic approach of being wholly good or bad. Through this exploration, students gain an understanding of their multifaceted nature and embrace the beautiful complexities that make them uniquely human, connecting them to themselves and bringing them back to “reality”. 


Competence, the final pillar within our program, bestows students with the tools and confidence to wholeheartedly embrace their roles in society and seize control of their own destinies. This transformative character capacity empowers individuals with BPD to not only navigate the challenges they have encountered but also to transcend them, forging ahead on a path of personal growth and resilience. By cultivating competence, we equip students with the necessary skills, knowledge, and mindset to navigate the challenges of life with grace and determination. It enables them to hold steadfastly onto their identities, refusing to be defined solely by their conditions, and instead, embracing their inherent strengths and unique qualities. Through this journey, students discover their own capabilities, unlocking their full potential and paving the way for a future in which they can thrive and make meaningful contributions to the world around them.

In conclusion, breaking the stigma surrounding borderline personality disorder and its traits is of utmost importance. By dispelling misconceptions and promoting understanding, we create a society that fosters compassion, acceptance, and support for individuals living with BPD. This not only allows for improved access to appropriate care and resources, but it also empowers those with BPD to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination. Furthermore, destigmatizing BPD encourages open dialogue, reducing shame and promoting awareness about the condition’s complexities. By challenging stereotypes and promoting empathy, we pave the way for healing, one teenager at a time. 

Ashton Burton, LCSW
Therapist for Compass Rose Academy

How to Observe Mental Health Awareness Month

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has worked as a therapist with Josiah White’s and Compass Rose since 2018, I was asked as a professional in the field to write a post about Mental Health Awareness month and its importance. To be honest, though, I’ve never really thought much about Mental Health Awareness month because for me every month is Mental Health Awareness month. Because of this, I did some research about the month and its history. Surprisingly, I found out May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness month since 1949. Wow, have we come a long way since then! 

Since 2008, Mental Health America has chosen a theme each year to help the general public learn more about how to better take care of themselves and their loved ones. This year’s theme is “More than Enough.” This theme resonates with me because of the work we do with our kids at Josiah White’s and Compass Rose. Almost every kid we serve comes to us carrying the weight of the story “I’m not good enough.” I imagine you’ve found yourself carrying that story or something similar before too. I know I have. The true gift of being a therapist is being able to sit with others as they begin to unlearn this story and break the chains that hold them back. 

Mental health challenges come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people are born with chemical imbalances that cause a lifetime of challenges with things like Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, or ADHD. Others have either acute or chronic traumatic experiences that lead to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is far more common than most people realize and is incredibly varied in its presentation. Others have a combination of genetic and environmental factors that lead to disordered personality features, which can often be confusing both to those afflicted and those in relationship with them. Still others find themselves with mental health challenges that only present for a season due to life changes, medical issues, or even changes in the seasons (Talk to me in January in Indiana and I will tell you without a doubt that I am DEPRESSED.)

One of the common factors in all of these situations is that not a single one is cured or helped by invalidating them, pretending they don’t exist, or telling yourself or someone else that their experience is inaccurate or to “just get over it.” THIS is where I think the true importance of this month comes in. Well-intentioned people, often parents, without knowledge and resources of mental illness can do and say things that are hurtful and delay those suffering from getting the help that they need. 

I truly believe that everyone is doing their best with what they know and when we know better, we do better. So if you’ve found yourself not knowing how to respond to someone with mental illness, here are a few tips to hopefully help you approach mental health concerns with more thoughtfulness and efficacy. 

If you are suffering from a mental health issue yourself: 

– Approach yourself with kindness and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Talk to a trusted friend – You will probably find that people relate to what you are struggling with more than you think and everything feels more manageable when you are not alone. Mr. Rogers said, “What is mentionable is manageable, and everything that is human is mentionable.”
– When you are ready to try therapy, Psychology Today is a great resource for finding a therapist in your area.
– Coping skills like journaling, square breathing, exercise, and progressive muscle relaxation can help in moments of stress.
– Pick up one of hundreds of books about mental health that can help you understand what you are experiencing and what you need (Two of my favorites are Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud and Try Softer by Aundi Kolber.)

If someone you love is suffering from a mental health issue: 

– Don’t try to fix them. This is tempting, especially for parents, but you will not be able to take this away from them immediately and that’s likely not what they’re looking to you for anyway. Instead, focus on helping them to know they are not alone and that you love them no matter what.
– Check-in – Don’t be afraid to be upfront about what someone is going through. Often, especially with heavy topics like suicidal ideation, we worry that we might make it worse by bringing it up, but it’s likely that the person is thinking about it anyway and will find comfort in being invited to express freely with a safe friend or family member.
– When you do talk about any mental health concerns with someone, practice validation (convey that the person’s experience is significant and not to be dismissed) and empathy (the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another). DO NOT blame or shame someone for their experience, especially if what they are sharing is vulnerable for them.
– Educate yourself about their specific illness. Provide help when you can but remember to set limits to take care of yourself too. It is not your responsibility to make them feel better. Put your own oxygen mask on first.
– In an emergency situation, refer them to the Suicide Hotline (988) or in the case of someone causing significant harm to themselves or others, call 911.

If you find yourself to be having difficulty knowing how to have healthy emotional separation from someone with a mental illness or addiction, groups like Al-Anon and CoDependents Anonymous are wonderful resources for support. 

In keeping with 2023’s Mental Health Awareness Month theme, repeat after me and tell yourself and your loved ones that you are “more than enough” and need not carry the shame that comes with the stigma of mental illness!

– Lauren Sowers, MA, LMHC, Compass Rose Academy Therapist

Revitalized Menu Focuses on Whole Foods for CRA Students

As part of life on the new campus, Compass Rose decided to revamp what the students were eating each day to better support their journey towards healing and growth. Since we know the important impact that nutrition has on our overall health, including our mental health, CRA put together a food committee made up of staff to thoughtfully redesign our menu to greatly limit or exclude refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods. Our new menu emphasizes whole foods, including nutrient-rich and filling foods like avocados and sweet potatoes, and is largely grain-free. 

“Overall, the reason was partly helping the girls to develop a healthy relationship with food and also recognizing the impact of the food that we eat on our overall well-being, particularly our mental health,” said Mike Haarer, Vice President and Executive Director. “That involved taking a look at the ways that a diet that’s high in grains and includes sugars impacts mood and then making changes to limit those and replace them with nutrient-rich whole foods.” 

This new approach to food at Compass Rose also encourages students to reestablish a healthy relationship with food. 

“I still struggle with a relationship with food, but I definitely came here with the understanding that food, in any kind of excess or to any kind of extent is harmful to your body,” said a current CRA student. “I just have a very different view of food now where I notice myself getting hungry and thinking, ‘Oh, I definitely need protein today because I’m low on energy’ or ‘It would be really great for me to have some fruit or vegetables right now because I feel a little stuck’ and I just have never noticed that kind of effect on my body before.”

Students enjoy breakfast in their homes, pack their lunch in a bento box, and join together in cooking dinners in the evenings. Meal planning is focused on offering healthy options; recent meals have included shrimp tacos with rice and loaded sweet potatoes with shredded chicken, with sides of a variety of fresh fruit and veggies. 

In the future, our hope is to adjust the menu rotation based on the season and the students’ evaluations. Future goals also include having our own farm on campus that will directly contribute to the meals the students are eating on a daily basis.

“Partly the goal is to really emphasize that our relationship with food starts with more awareness of where food comes from, how we grow, nurture, and develop it and its impact on our bodies. Eventually we want to do everything from raising animals to growing more of our own fruits and vegetables,” said Mike Haarer. “We also have pasture land and own livestock adjacent to our student homes.” 

Overall, we want our students to learn to enjoy food, understand where it comes from, and learn to make healthy choices that have a lasting positive impact on their lives. By teaching them experientially in our therapeutic environment, we not only help them to eat healthy food while they are here, but we equip them with knowledge and create patterns to help them when they leave as well.

Spring Parent Weekend: Rebuilding Fences and Setting Boundaries

When you invite your best friend to your home, are they only allowed past your fence and into your yard, or do you open the door and let them into the living room? What about a complete stranger? How far into your home would you allow them to come? How close do you allow people to get to you? This is a struggle that many of our students experience. Seeing their fences get broken over and over causes them to give up on rebuilding completely or causes them to build a bigger and stronger fence without any entrance or exit. At the beginning of this month, we hosted our current Compass Rose families for our quarterly Parent Weekend. We explored what those fences entail and what a good, healthy fence looks like. 

Being able to see families work together and work through the challenges of rebuilding and setting boundaries made all of the time and energy of planning the weekend together worth it. In one activity, each person made their own ‘boundaries fence’ and took a correlating boundaries assessment. For each category that they scored low on, they removed a piece of the fence. By the end, if you glanced around the room, many of the previously put-together fences were in disarray. With this activity, family members could see a clear, visual representation of their own boundaries, as well as the boundaries of other family members affect how they interact and function as a family. We then heard from Vice President and Executive Director Mike Haarer and Admissions Director Madeline Spring on the importance of having healthy boundaries and what that looks like in everyday life.

Our families also went to an equine therapy program where they worked as a team to guide their horses through a variety of activities. The therapists and staff did an activity about triangulation, a manipulative tactic people use to avoid direct communication, which many of our families found to be helpful. While these equine therapy sessions, art therapy sessions, and breakout sessions were a big hit, many parents reported that their favorite part of Parent Weekend was just spending time with their child. Just being in the same room, you could feel the love and determination of both students and parents to improve their relationships.

– By Kaylee Stants, CRA Clinical Intern

In Pursuit of Our Heart

In our chapel services, we have been diving into the book of Jonah and have taken time in our Bible Studies to go more in depth to explore the implications of Jonah in our lives today. We often lose sight of Jonah in the mix of a big fish. We have lumped the story in with some grand miracle of God that we just admit we will never fully understand, and we glaze past the story and move on. In reality, a study of Jonah displays a much deeper dive into our hearts that challenges us to confront our own rebellion. The more I know about Jonah the more I feel as if I am looking in a mirror and being challenged about the way I interact with and know the God I claim to worship. As we have spent the last several months exploring Jonah, we have been invited to question our own hearts and perception of how we act out our faith.

What is continually striking about the story of Jonah is that we rarely see him doing what we expect a prophet to be doing. As a prophet, we expect him to be obedient to God’s call, but he isn’t. As a prophet, we expect him to be eager to bring people back to the law, but he isn’t. We instead find a “man of God” who appears to be bitter and angry at the loving compassion of his God. Even when Jonah does obey and do as he is told, we get a sense he’s only doing it because he can’t run away from it. He tried to sail in the opposite direction and there was a storm; he tried to die by being thrown overboard and there was a fish, and so he seems to be obeying so that he can move on with life. This can be seen by the simple fact that when he walks the streets of Nineveh and tells them to repent, he delivers a five word sermon in Hebrew that doesn’t even tell them who God is, why he is angry, or how to repent. He shares the bare minimum to fulfill the requirement and then goes off to watch the people of Nineveh be destroyed. He isn’t scared of these people; he is angry at them – angry that they have destroyed his nation, angry at their war tactics, angry at the way they treat his nation, angry that they are the enemy and that God wants to give them grace.  

Despite Jonah’s many shortcomings, we continually see God in persistent pursuit. No matter how angry Jonah got, no matter how far he ran, no matter how much he disobeyed, God pursued him to the end of the earth, to the bottom of a boat, and into the depths of the sea. The reality of our situation is that we often believe God only wants his people to perform certain tasks. He is only interested in how well we follow a to-do list and how morally right we live. If this was the case for Jonah, God could have easily chosen a different prophet for the task at hand. Maybe a prophet that was known for following instructions, always did what was expected of them, and never strayed from the truth. But that’s not what God did. Fully knowing how poorly Jonah would respond, God chose to call Jonah. This persistence throughout the story shows that God wasn’t after Jonah’s actions, he was after Jonah’s heart. It was never about performing the right tasks, it was about God’s desire to transform Jonah’s heart. 

As a result, God did not give up easily when Jonah ran away, said no, asked to die, and refused to follow through on his call. While we see over and over ways in which Jonah sought to leave God behind, we never see God give up on Jonah. I wonder how you and I need to be reminded of this reality in our own lives? Do we serve God out of a sense of obligation because we fear what He will do in our disobedience? Or do we do so because we truly desire His transformative work in our lives? The reality is, even when we live our life on the run, doing as we think God desires and only engaging our minds in performing the right act, he is still pursuing our hearts. While action is certainly a portion of our faith, it should be what flows out of an already captured heart. All the work in the world does not measure up to the heart of surrender God is continually searching for. In this season, may we all take the reminder that God did not give the gift of his Son so that we might be good people. Rather, God gave the gift of His Son so that he might claim ultimate pursuit over our hearts, and not just our actions. 

-By LilyAnn Matchett, CRA Student Chaplain

Mismatching Experiences

In our work with teens and families, we often talk about creating mismatching experiences, or corrective emotional experiences. In the type of therapeutic work that we do, these are powerful, even transformative processes aimed at freeing people from their emotional responses tied to early memories and attachment experiences. But what do we actually mean when we talk about creating these corrective emotional experiences

The idea of mismatching or corrective emotional experiences and our therapeutic practices around them are based on the concept of Memory Reconsolidation as described by Bruce Ecker, Robin Ticic, and Laurel Hulley in the book Unlocking the Emotional Brain: Eliminating Symptoms at Their Roots Using Memory Reconsolidation. In the book, the authors describe a process of therapy in which the neural connections holding core emotional learnings based on early attachment experiences are unlocked and then even erased within the nervous system. This means that at a deep neurological level our brains can be rewired in such a way that our deeply rooted interpersonal patterns can be changed. 

Essentially, the way the process works is that a core emotional learning is activated so that the individual has a here-and-now visceral experience related to the core emotional learning. This can occur as a situation presents itself or by asking the individual to recall an early experience that created the learning. For instance, this could be calling to mind an early experience of being teased on the playground leading to the core emotional learning that “No wants to be my friend.” 

After calling to mind the feelings related to the core emotional learning, the authors use the technical term The Juxtaposition Experience to describe creating what we call a mismatching  or corrective emotional experience. In this stage, the person is presented with an experience that brings about alternate feelings which stand opposed to the core emotional learning. This can be an experience that happens in the here-and-now, like an in-vivo experience in individual, group, or family therapy, or it can be brought about by intentionally bringing to mind a particular memory or experience. For example, a mismatching experience for the learning “No one wants to be my friend” may be the closeness one feels with other participants in group therapy, or it could be calling to mind memories of experiences of felt closeness with a friend or loved one. The individual would be asked to experience, feel, and hold this new experience while also reflecting on how different it feels from their visceral experience of the old core emotional learning. 

The next step involves repetition of this process of recalling both the old and new experiences. In this way, just like working with wet cement, the individual is able to impact that wiring in the nervous system while the neural connections are still activated and malleable. Considerable research has been conducted on this process of Memory Reconsolidation which has demonstrated effectiveness in harnessing neuroplasticity to unlock synapses in order to “eliminate emotional learning from implicit memory” (Unlocking the Emotional Brain, 2012).

Treatment and Education: How Do They Work Together?

The decision to place your child in residential treatment can be a daunting one. There are so many different factors to consider when your end goal is ultimately hope and healing for your family. Sometimes, academics can fall to the wayside as life’s challenges arise. Navigating the waters of education while in treatment is important, yet often tricky. Failed courses, excessive absences, negative peer influences, and low self-confidence prior to treatment can make school feel overwhelming for a student.

Compass Rose Academy provides a fresh start for students, both therapeutically and academically. With access to an onsite private accredited Christian school, students are assigned a course schedule to help put them back on track with the ultimate goal of returning home. Small class sizes, supportive adults, and the project-based learning model help students regain the confidence they need in order to be successful in a classroom environment. 

In addition, the academic team works closely with the clinical team in order to provide wraparound support for all students. This includes participating in weekly staffing meetings and providing insight as to how students are managing the day-to-day expectations within a school environment. Teachers are able to work collaboratively with therapists to identify patterns and provide feedback to all team members. Through observation and collaboration, the team is more accurately able to set clear action steps for individual students. In addition, when doing weekly goal setting at school, students are encouraged to reflect on and set goals that help them practice skills they’re learning in their own treatment journey. 

Navigating treatment and education can be difficult, but when collaboration is a priority, students benefit from proactive team communication and alignment in treatment goals. 

Compass Rose Academy Achieves CARF Accreditation

Compass Rose Academy is honored to have recently been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Meeting the standards to achieve this accreditation is one way CRA is ensuring that the students in our program are receiving the highest quality of care available. This accreditation requires our staff to participate in frequent and intensive training and many mental health professionals look for CARF accreditation when making referrals.

“The accreditation process took about a year. We reviewed all of our processes, services, tools, policies and procedures, forms, technology and infrastructure and weighed them against the CARF Standards. The CRA team made changes, but by and large we were in compliance with most of the standards having already been Council on Accreditation accredited since 2013,” said Chasity Mota, Accreditation & Licensing Manager. 

Compass Rose is grateful to receive CARF accreditation and looks forward to how this will further our work of providing hope and healing to teen girls and their families. 

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

Out of Darkness Comes Light

The Friday after Thanksgiving this year was similar to those in the past – our family dug out the Christmas storage boxes, put up the fresh tree, and turned on the jolly tunes as we decorated. However, something was different this time around. After putting the lights on the tree, I was in charge of plugging the lights in to make sure they worked. I reached for the plug and held it to the outlet. In that moment, I felt two feelings completely wash over me: great joy and deep sadness. I felt great joy as I knew the tree would be lit. It would be magical, and I would feel the excitement of the Christmas season. I felt deep sadness as I knew the Christmas season would eventually come to an end.

As I reflected on this moment later, I allowed myself to be curious about the sadness, curious about what I needed to learn from it. In years past, I don’t recall feeling a sense of sadness until the season was over. I wondered: if I allowed myself to feel sadness as I went through the Christmas season, would it feel so big come January?

My family and I started reading an Advent devotional the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This devotional depicts animals’ journeys throughout the winter season. They store up food, make shelter, and buckle down for the harsh winter. They hope for the promise of spring, the promise of sun, the promise of light to come. Ah, that feeling of sadness rose again. This time, the sadness turned to anguish.

I reflected on the waiting for the birth of Christ. Prior to His birth, the people of God were waiting for 400 years for restoration, for redemption. Not a Word from God. He was silent. The agony they must have felt! They were waiting. In silence. In darkness. 

When God created the world, darkness, meaning chaos, was present: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:2-3). 

In the birth of Christ, the Fall of man experiences redemption through our Emmanuel: “In him was life, and that life was the light of man. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it”(John 1:4-5). Sure, there is debate on when exactly Christ was born, but there is something about celebrating His birth in the darkest time of the year. There is darkness. There is silence. We wait for the promise of spring, of sun, of light. 

True to my nature, I may be looking too far into the feeling I felt while plugging in the Christmas lights. And still, I believe God can use anything to teach me if I look for it. I, along with other people of faith, wait for the full redemption of God’s people. I long for Jesus’ return. I long for New Creation. In this Christmas season, I don’t want to plow through and only honor the joy I feel. I want to honor the sadness. I want to allow myself to feel the deep anguish. I want to connect with the people of God who felt a similar feeling in the years before Jesus’ birth. Gosh, what a heaviness! How faithful they were to trust in God. What longing! How the enemy must have thought he had won, that darkness had taken over.  And yet, all Creation confidently and expectantly waited for the promise of Light. 

When the darkness falls each day, I will allow myself to feel the sadness. For when I do, I can fully embrace the Light which is to come. 

— Marissa Pollard, CRA Therapist

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