Resources for Veterans & Families

At the beginning of May, Wounded Warrior Project hosted the Veteran Support Conference to open up community dialogue about veteran-friendly organizations, provide insight into the military community, and share resources for our vets. Attendees were able to hear firsthand experiences of transitioning back to civilian life, including the hope that comes with community support.

This community dialogue has inspired me to create a list of resources for our local military members and their families. Let’s spread a message of hope this week of Memorial Day! Visit my Military Resources page to learn more.

Essential Oils and Mental Health

Today’s guest blogger, Melody, has graciously agreed to answer some questions about essential oils and their potential uses to combat some common mental health concerns. Please check out our instagram collaboration to see all of the tips she’s dishing out this week! Melody is an oils user, lover, and educator. She and her husband, Danny, live in the sweetest place on earth- Hershey, PA- with their kiddos (ages 4, 6, and 8). Their family has known Jess and her husband since their college days together at Geneva.  When she’s not teaching about oils, you can find her serving at their church, helping out in their kids’ classrooms, chatting with a friend or two at Starbucks, and if it’s a really good day – on the beach with her favorite book! Melody’s family spent over a decade in full-time ministry with Young Life but has recently done some job transitioning– it’s been a crazy but good ride.

Ask Melody your essential oil questions here: @TheSweetestPlaceToLearn

I (Jess) started using essential oils a few years ago and I recommend some blends for clients, but I’m far from an expert. How did you (Melody) get into essential oils? I started using doterra’s oils about 2 years ago because I was determined to find a way to keep myself, my husband, and our 3 kiddos healthier over the Fall and Winter months. I was a complete oils skeptic but I was also desperate so I reached out to my cousin who had offered to share some samples with me if I ever wanted them. Low and behold…they worked! Winter #1: countless visits to the dr (if they had frequent flier points, I’d have earned myself a free vacation). Winter #2: 1 trip! After that, I was all about educating myself and my friends and family about how incredible these oils are!

A lot of people have heard that things like lavender can be calming. Can essential oils actually help support mental health? Absolutely, especially for mood and pain issues. Using oils aromatically, topically, and internally can help support mental health in a variety of ways. I’ll share more about this during our story posts on Instagram, but the short answer is YES!

Who can use essential oils? ANYONE! You, your friends, your kids, even your pets. There are correct ways to use them, and this is where that education comes in. The more you know, the more empowered you are to help yourself and the ones you love. It’s why I’m committed to supporting my members every step of the way.

Why did you choose doterra? Good question! There are so many oils out there today so this is a very important topic. After tons of research I was thoroughly impressed by doterra’s sourcing (all over the world- the plants we use come from the countries where they grow natively), testing (the most tested oils on the market, and you can see all the test results!), their commitment to sharing education, and also their price points and rewards (so so generous). I could go on and on about this question!

Check us out on instagram this week for specific ideas for your mental health support! @JGageLPC & @TheSweetestPlaceToLearn

Where can people learn more? Melody loves to share information about oils, so you are welcome to email her your questions at Her doterra members know that she’s there for them. She takes it very seriously when someone decides to try oils for the first time. She knows you’re going to need some guidance for a little while, so she’s got a few resources set up for you to make you successful and to make sure the investment you make in your health goes a long way! Check her out on facebook and instagram, or look at her doterra page and doterra blog to browse some resources!

A Spectrum of Relational Health

You don’t need a degree in counseling to realize that relationships are complicated, especially when they don’t feel balanced. That can happen in a number of ways, but today I’m focusing on the dynamics of healthy interdependence and how easy it can be to slide toward the more extreme ends of the spectrum of relational health.

Independence sounds admirable enough, but it’s not good for long-term relationships. When a person cannot (or will not) bring down walls in vulnerable ways to expose weak spots, lean on a partner, or ask for help, the relationship withers over time. Isolation starves relationships. Bringing vulnerability into relationships, however, is like offering sun and water to a plant: it’s necessary for healthy growth.

Codependency is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but when I say it to a client, the most common response is, “I’ve heard that word a lot, but I’m not sure what it actually means.” For the sake of this discussion, codependency means excessive reliance on another person (usually a partner) for psychological and/or emotional validation, purpose, and identity. Typically, a person struggling with codependency is attached to a person who is dealing with an addiction or a physical or mental illness and needs that person to remain in a weak place in order for their own identity to survive. My favorite codependency resources are by Melody Beattie as well as books like this one.

So if independence and codependence can be so detrimental for our relationships, what’s left?

Interdependence is the gold standard for healthy relationships. It can be intimidating because it is built on both partners’ levels of confidence and relational intelligence. But once achieved, both partners are able to be strong enough to hold up the other person and simultaneously vulnerable enough to lean on that person for love and support. I often see people coming into my office with resistance to one or the other, and it doesn’t work well in the long run. Interdependence is like building a teepee where each post is strong on its own but gains both strength (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) and purpose (a safe place) in relationship to the others as each post is strategically placed with equal weight distribution.

The next time you catch yourself feeling a lack of balance in your relationship, take some time to assess where your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors fit on this spectrum of relational health.

On this Mother’s Day…

“To those who gave birth this year to their first child – we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away – we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.”

-Amy Young, The Messy Middle blog

Pregnancy, Loss, and Anxiety

Kylie, with her husband, Ben,
and their second child, Camden

Today’s guest blogger, Kylie Gibbons, lives in Massachusetts with her college-sweetheart-turned-husband, Ben, along with their daughter, Camden, and dog, Reese. They also have a baby who was born into the arms of Jesus in February 2016. As a family they enjoy walks around their neighborhood pond, Chick-fil-A, and serving at church. Kylie has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in organizational leadership, both from Geneva College. She enjoys working on political campaigns and leading women closer to Jesus through speaking and teaching. Here is a piece of her story to remind you that you aren’t alone in your anxiety or grief…

I’ll never forget the day we learned that our first baby had left this earth and gone into the arms of Jesus. We were twelve weeks pregnant, expecting to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time, instead we were met with deafening silence. February 25, 2016 rocked our world, but at that time we didn’t know how lasting the aftershocks would be.

Just three months after learning our first baby had died, we learned that our second baby was on the way. We hadn’t intended to get pregnant so quickly, and while we were thankful it happened that way, I would be lying if I said I was excited. Yep, I was pregnant and terrified, talk about mom-guilt. In fact, I waited for over a week to take a pregnancy test because I was in denial that we would be walking down this road again so soon after such devastating loss.

Initially, I felt overwhelmingly guilty that we would be welcoming another baby before our grief was even healed completely (as if grief ever really goes away). I was guilty that I wasn’t excited for this new life because I feared that we might not get to meet him/her just like our first. Guilty that I didn’t have the nerve to tell anyone out of concern that he/she wouldn’t make it very long.

It didn’t take long for guilt to turn into fear and anxiety. No sooner had I taken the test than I started to have spotting/bleeding. A clear indication, or at least I thought, that we would lose this baby, too. So just a week or so after confirming we were pregnant, I was heading to the doctor to have blood work drawn and an ultrasound taken to ensure everything was okay… and it was.

The spotting continued for a few weeks and each ultrasound confirmed that this baby was growing and developing just as she should be. While my fears subsided, my anxiety only worsened. I couldn’t get past the thought that the other shoe would drop, that the rug would be pulled out from underneath of my feet. Each appointment was met with anxiety, not excitement. Anxiety during my second pregnancy felt like constant fear. It was a sense of doom that I couldn’t shake. Even after a good doctor’s appointment I would feel a heavy weight that something was wrong with our baby. I over-analyzed every movement, or lack thereof, of our baby— every test result, every normal pregnancy symptom. It was a constant, never-ending worry that things weren’t going to be okay, and it lasted for months. My anxiety ebbed and flowed throughout the months of my second pregnancy, and it lasted through delivery, even until Camden was in our arms after she was born.

I don’t share this for sympathy, or even to show how strong I am, I share it to say, you aren’t alone. Every family experiences loss, many of children or babies, and the effects of loss are life-altering. Each loss and each grief looks different, but they are tied together by the cord of death. I write to say there is hope, even in the middle of the hard, maybe especially in the hard, there is hope. You see, while the anxiety was ever-present, there were a number of things that helped keep it in check along the way. 

The absolute biggest source of comfort was the truth of Scripture made accessible through music. After losing our first baby, we were confronted with the truth that, “Even if not, God is still good.” That truth is eternal and everlasting, but not ever believable. Songs declaring the goodness of God became our anthem and provided comfort as we walked through pregnancy after loss. We purchased an album by Hillary Scott and Family soon into our second pregnancy and the words of those songs, to this day, bring a flood of emotions. But the lyrics, while difficult and necessary, were reminders of the truth of the character of Jesus Christ and His unfailing goodness.

My husband, Ben, was my earthly rock through it all. He gave me space to grieve and work through the anxiety. Sometimes that looked like a reassuring word, but mostly it felt like a warm hug of “I’m here.” He spoke truth to my soul while stepping into the hard and letting me stay there for a while. Ben didn’t expect that I would just move on and suck it up, instead he led me with grace to the throne of Jesus, the true Comforter.

Surrounding myself with people praying for me gave me strength to face each day. My mom and sisters were fundamental in walking me through anxiety during pregnancy. One of my sisters also experienced miscarriage and she allowed me to talk through the hard stuff, the stuff you “aren’t supposed to think or say,” and she gave me room to process it. The rest of my sisters and mom wrote out prayers for me to read as we drove to the many doctor’s appointments we had. The rest of our families checked in on me, but not just about pregnancy, they gave me distractions and conversations that kept the anxiety at bay, even if only for a few minutes.

I knew that pregnancy after loss would be hard, but I don’t think I realized just how hard it would be. You see, this second baby didn’t replace our first, she wasn’t a do-over. She was new life, given as a gift, a tangible reminder of God’s faithfulness (though, it is absolutely necessary to say that He would still have been faithful if the outcome were different). Our first baby will forever have a place in our hearts, and our Camden will forever be a picture of God’s grace in our lives.

Anxiety couldn’t take that away from me. It couldn’t steal my joy. It didn’t rob me of life. Anxiety took away excitement during pregnancy, but it didn’t take away the love I have of both of our babies.

For more from Kylie, please check out her heartfelt blog, Nehemama. (The sweet and silly backstory behind her blog’s name is worth the click!)