September! A Very Special Month


September is…the birth month of my best friend, my partner in life and in ministry - my wife Joni Dekker Cook.

September is…

when we begin to experience a cooling of temperatures and to notice some changes in the landscape. In Tennessee, there’s an intermingling of various colors with the bright greens of summer’s end.

when Joni and I moved to “The Farm” in 2004. I remember it well. We were equally scared and excited. We were uncertain about all that God had planned. We did, however, know that this was the place! When a few months earlier, upon first seeing it in disrepair, I put my hand on the back railing and asked Jesus for this property. In that sacred, surreal moment, I felt a turning point in my faith walk. What we asked for, we believe Jesus gave to us.

…when we received confirmation through the words of our Bible Study Leader and Pastor. Though they knew nothing of our decision, their sermons spoke directly to us, as if we were the only ones in the room. This was the right move. The first year would be about preparing the property for the thousands of guests who would be the benefactors of its peace and serenity. The year following would prepare us emotionally, spiritually and physically to be His caretakers of this special place.

…when I began to officially see clients at “Lantern Lane Farm” in 2005. Words like “I can breathe here!”; “I feel safe here!”; “I knew…when I drove down the driveway!”; and “I believe God’s presence is here!” are confirmations of this “calling” and further validate our decisions. But most importantly, we began to see lives changing and healing happening in relationships and individuals. Immediately, LLF became a refuge - a place of healing for children, adults, and families from all walks of life.

It’s now fifteen Septembers later.


It’s 2019 and God has been so incredibly faithful! Joni and I no longer live at the farm location, with the entire space now dedicated to counseling. There are 11 therapists and 6 interns who walk alongside clients at a rate of 200 sessions per week. And, in all of these months, we’ve never turned anyone away due to their inability to pay.  We hear from the recipients of Christlike care, validation in their statements. Our classically trained therapists continue to meet people where they are and walk alongside them in their journey to health - emotionally, physically and spiritually.

As Septembers come and go: Our Board of Directors, our therapists, staff and volunteers remain committed to the mission and values of Lantern Lane Farm.

Mission: Lantern Lane Farm provides restorative and compassionate care, through traditional and equine assisted counseling, in a peaceful, countryside setting.

Values: “We believe in God and His purpose for LLF to bind the wounds of the wounded and set them free from the bondage that they are experiencing in their life.”

We believe in providing:

  • compassionate, caring, nonjudgmental care.

  • a safe and confidential environment.

  • respect for all faiths and walks of life, meeting people where they are.

  • a place worthy of trust.

We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of this very special month: SEPTEMBER!

-       Ralph, Joni and the entire Lantern Lane Family!

Simple Better Mental Health


While in college, my professor cited an interesting study. In it, people were asked, “would you be willing to take medicine that promoted weight loss, increased lean muscle mass, boosted metabolism, lowered blood pressure, decreased depression and anxiety, improved mood, self-confidence, and increased your energy?” Needless to say, the participants overwhelmingly answered “yes.”

However, when told that this ‘medicine’ was simply exercise and asked…knowing this, are you likely to now start a regular exercise regimen? – surprisingly (or perhaps not) the majority responded “no” or “maybe.”

It’s no secret that exercise makes us feel better physically, mentally, or emotionally... so why don’t we do it? The 2 most common reasons I hear from clients are:

1.  I don’t know what to do

2. I don’t have the time

I completely understand that. Between work, spouse, kids, church, PTA meetings, and the hundreds of things that vie for our attention, we are simply pressed for time. Adding “go to the gym” to the list seems impossible!

But it doesn’t have to be impossible.

In fact, you can incorporate exercise into your daily life without breaking much of a sweat!

Some simple examples that you can do anywhere are:

  • Chair sit/stands (Sit in chair, stand up without using your hands to push off, sit back down)

  • Walk

  • Take the stairs

  • Planks (Hold the top of a push up position)

  • Pick objects up and set them back down

  • Hold objects for a set length of time

Each of these activities can be done without a gym membership, fitness equipment, or even putting on “workout clothes.” So you’re now probably thinking, “Jacob, this sounds fine... but how do I incorporate this into my day to day life?” Fair point. Here is what I would recommend:

  • Step 1: Set a timer on your phone to go off every 30-60 minutes

  • Step 2: Choose one of the exercises from above that you wish to do

  • Step 3: Perform that Exercise for 30-60 seconds

  • Step 4: Resume your normal day.

If you follow these steps, you will have exercised for 8 minutes or more in a typical day! Research shows that it may take as little as 5 minutes a day (especially if you are in an outdoor space) to achieve mental health benefits from exercise, and you won’t need to join a gym or don the exercise outfit to experience the benefits.

Consider challenging a few of your friends or coworkers to do the same thing. Then at the end of the day, compare “scores.” You’ll get the benefit of accountability, some friendly competition, and a little more fun knowing that you’re not in this by yourself.

Happy exercising everyone!

Jacob D. Dye - Counselor, MS, LPC/MHSP

(LPC/MHSP: Licensed Professional Counselor, Mental Health Service Professional)

Emotions Are Only Alarms…Not Good or Bad


Emotions are often categorized as good or bad, but they are neither. Sad, angry, and the like, are usually considered bad, while happy is considered good. Humans are wired to experience each and every emotion. When we don’t, we build walls, become callous, unforgiving, and even bitter. Each emotion, including depression, is just an experience; treat it as such.

Picture this: if we vacation, we take in all of the experience, enjoy it, and progress forward, sharing with friends, family, and social media followers. If we’re depressed, however, we often skip that feeling, sometimes becoming suicidal, and sharing with no one. However, depression is also an experience that doesn’t define us or provide an end point. Like a vacation, it’s an experience, and neither determines our value. Depression is a part of our story, one that strives for as much attention as the vacation. We should absorb the feeling, but not become the feeling.

Witness it. Allow it. Release it. Permit it to be a part of our story and allow it to help someone else. But first, we must accept it, to gain the confidence to share it.

Here’s a tip to help view emotions in a more neutral and beneficial way. Recognize they are neither good nor bad, but helpful alarms that provide insight into our true feelings. Viewing emotions as an alarm is helpful in determining the work needed to become a mentally and emotionally healthier individual. Not taking emotions personally, but using the information they provide, could make the difference between being healthy and unhealthy. We cannot become our true selves without the correct perspective. The things we cannot change require us to change our perspectives.

I challenge you to change the way you view emotions and feelings to help you become the best version of you.

Brandie Jones, MMFT

Brandie Jones is a Marriage & Family Therapist at Lantern Lane Farm Counseling Center.

Summer & Mental Health: Structure vs Freedom


As the school year winds down there can be a bump in anxiety levels.  Although we all look forward to sunny days—anxiety and other mental health issues can creep in. 

The “Dog Days of Summer” quickly envelop us and my mind wanders to the … KIDS! Though my own are now adults, I remember how, after initial excitement, the summer can begin to drag. And with it, a whole host of issues: from boredom on one end of the spectrum to activity overload on the other.

Many imagine idyllic, do-nothing days of relaxing and recharging. However, sometimes the lack of structure can bring uncertainty and discomfort. Let’s see…thunderstorms, swimming lessons, deep end of the pool; camp, ticks and Lyme disease, sunburns, fireworks and let’s not forget the undertow.

Here’s a tip for handling these challenges without increasing the worry.  Teach problem solving and preparation as an alternative to the danger discussion.  Encourage your children (and the adults around you) to be proactive. Focus on teaching problem solving skills in anticipation of times of trouble. And remember to always reach out for help, if it’s needed.

Tammie Elkins, M.M.F.T.

Tammie is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Lantern Lane Farm - Counseling Center.

The Language of Play


Play is a child’s first language. They may not be able to look at you and say “I had a really bad day at school, this is how I am feeling, and this is what I need right now.” Instead, they act out and behave in way that parents don’t understand and eventually makes them feel frustrated. When a child goes to play therapy, they have someone who is trained to understand their language. Rather than a child needing to explain why they are behaving the way that they are, or explain what happened that has put them in a rotten mood; they are able to simply play with a therapist and work through it.

You’re probably thinking,“well, can’t my child just play at home?” The answer is of course yes, but if a parent cannot understand the language of play the child can still struggle. A therapist can also help parents learn to play with their children while building a stronger attachment to each other. Play therapy is more than just child’s play. It is giving a child the voice to express themselves, and the empowerment that comes from being understood.

 - Tiffany Dillard, LPC-MHSP (temp), NCC 

Tiffany is working through the certification process to become a Registered Play Therapist. 

 For more information on Play Therapy visit:

Triggers and Trauma

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Triggers and Trauma

Trauma and its aftereffects can resonate through a person’s life.  Something that happened to you years or decades ago can rear its ugly head and shake you up like the intervening years had never occurred. I recently went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. From the second I walked in, the sounds and smells and feelings— the sound of scraping, the smell of disinfectant, the anticipation of pain— all sent me reeling. The dental hygienist was as lovely as she was kind, but her kindness did not stop my white-knuckled grip on the armrests. By the time she finished, my heart was racing, my hands were numb from clenching too tightly, and I needed a minute before I could stand. 

Even though I knew for a fact that bleeding gums were the worst I could expect from this visit, my brain refused to believe it. I was sent all the way back to my childhood, where I suffered under the hands of a not so gentle dentist who was not concerned with the comfort of a child. I was experiencing the aftereffects of trauma. 

The nature of trauma is a state of helplessness. Trauma is an overwhelming emotion to a threat or harm, the longer and more impactful that threat, the more disruption to our ability to think, plan or even speak.  That's why offering the language of kindness is so important for someone experiencing or re-living a traumatic event.  What's important is to find a safe place and person who can help you engage your trauma. Your trauma does not look like my trauma. Each of us has a unique story with a unique set of circumstances we have encountered.

Your trauma doesn’t need to be “big” or “devastating” for it to be valid. Your trauma can be as simple as hating to go to the dentist. But you need to know this in the deepest part of your heart: big or small, trauma affects the body, and that makes it a legitimate source of pain that you are more than allowed to seek help for. 

Diane Mitchell, LCC



What You Can Learn From Your Favorite Shoes


Think about your favorite pair of shoes. You know the ones, the ones that you’ve had for a while. Maybe you save them for a special occasion, because they make you feel invincible. Maybe it’s because they fit exactly how you want a shoe to fit, and it is impossible to find something that feels that good again. My favorite shoes in high school were a pair of yellow converse. Sure I have had other converse in my life, but something about these yellow ones made me feel like I could tackle anything that the high school drama might throw at me. Like most shoes you buy, they had that shoe store smell. The ends were white and the yellow was bright and sunny. This didn’t last long for my faithful yellow converse, and never lasts for other shoes either. The laces start to fray, the memory foam wears down, maybe eventually the sole starts to rip from the upper, but there is something about those shoes that you want to wear them regardless. You love the shoes, and no matter how dirty they get you are going to wear those shoes.

Now relate this to yourself. You at one time were new, shiny, and full of potential just like your favorite pair of shoes. As you get older and you start to go through messes, you may find yourself believing you are dirty. You may feel as if you are not worthy of being cared for because of the dirt that you have been treading through. You are sure that maybe you should just be thrown out, because after all, who wants a dirty human? The problem is that we often look down and see all our own dirt and forget that friends, family, and strangers are all walking through dirt too. We love them regardless, just like I loved my yellow converse. I wore them proudly with their frays, tears, and stains. I saw them all as something that told a story. Our dirt and our scars tell stories. We love our best friend’s scars, their dirt, their baggage. Why is it that we do not give ourselves that same treatment?

Today when you think of your dirt, treat yourself with self-compassion. Care for yourself regardless of the dirt, and realize that it just makes you part of a really big club, the human race. 

Love Letters for our Future

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February brings up thoughts of romance and love for our significant others. Every magazine you see in the super market check- out line reads in bold letters: how to spice things up in the bedroom, or how to plan a perfect romantic evening for your better half. But what about your kids? One of my favorite marriage authors likes to say that teaching your kids about good healthy relationships starts the minute they are born. The same is true of romance. How you treat your spouse teaches your kids how to treat their own spouses in the future. When you make your wife a priority ahead of your kids you are teaching your kids that not only do women matter, but that their mother matters and has great worth and value. When you make your husband a priority you are teaching your kids that their dad is worthy of respect and has great value as well. So, tell your kids 'no, because I have date with your dad'. Tell your kids, 'you'll have to wait until I'm not done kissing your mother.'

Let your kids learn what is normal physical touch. By holding hands and being close, you are modeling a healthy relationship. Let your life and your marriage be the love letter that inspires your kids to write their own love letters.  As your children grow and develop their own relationships, they will rely on what they know to be true about their own value and worth. Right now, they will think they have the grossest parents ever, but in the end their own marriages will thank you for it.