Charity Muse is a therapist, a life coach and the co-founder of her private practice. But she is also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a native of Tennessee and the product of a Pentecostal family.
Through the course of her life, she's wrestled with questions about what she believes, what occupation she wants to pursue and how she views herself and other people. One of her most pressing questions has been finding where she belongs, as she's often felt alone.
Charity, who identifies as a lesbian, has experienced her share of criticism from church congregations, staff and students from her university and even close friends.
Yet, Charity has overcome these obstacles and found how she can be a light, she said. Now, she works as a therapist in Calhoun who offers comfort and compassion to her patients, aiming to create a safe space for people who feel like they don't belong.
Charity was born into a Pentecostal family in Falling Water, Tennessee, and grew up going to the church her grandfather built
by hand. As she grew up, she got involved in music ministry and leading worship – a talent she brought with her when she moved to college.
Charity attended Lee University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, and around the same time she realized she wanted to study psychology, Charity came out to herself. Being at Lee, a school with a reputation as a strict evangelical campus, her coming-out experience definitely went against the grain.
"It was crazy that it was in that environment I became OK with myself," Charity said. "I went through my own process of coming to terms with it, but this was who I was."
As an example of the dynamic of the campus, Charity said Lee requires all students to sign a community covenant saying they won't have premarital sex, won't drink alcohol and won't engage in homosexual behavior, which are only a few points on the contract. And if the covenant is broken, the student in question could potentially face expulsion.
Yet, it was on that campus that Charity found a community of people who challenged tradition and were dealing with questions of their own. That group helped her find a place where she belonged, in the midst of Southern culture
As Charity grew more comfortable with herself and further established her circle of friends, she kept on coming back to the realization that she wanted to help others. In high school, she had been her friends' confidant, in college people had always asked her for advice and she had always been a safe place for others.
After earning her counseling certification, with encouragement from her professional mentors, Charity decided to start her own private practice as an open lesbian. Charity had been open about her identity for a long time, but being this bold – being transparent about her sexuality while she pursued an occupation – was a huge step for her.
And with support from her wife, Deanna Muse, Charity decided to open up shop in Calhoun. The two founded Resonance together, a center for counseling and coaching for women, LBGTQ+ people and others who need a place for acceptance, affirmation and growth.
Coming to Calhoun
Deanna, having graduated from Calhoun High School, knew how easy it was to feel on the outside of society in a small town. After some contemplation, the Muses came to realize establishing Resonance in Calhoun was the right thing to do.
Thus, Resonance was born, and though Charity is the licensed therapist, Deanna is involved in the practice behind the scenes. The two work together to create a space for those on the outskirts to feel safe, welcomed and appreciated.
Charity said she has experienced significantly less pushback from the community than she expected, with her practice being a fully-affirming space for the LGBTQ+ community, feminists and others who don't fit into the box of what they're told they should be.
On the contrary, Charity and Deanna have received affirmation, compassion and love, not only from people of Gordon County, but from those around the state. Specifically, a Georgia judge helped Charity and her wife get approved for a second parent adoption, which allowed Deanna to legally adopt Charity's biological children.
"The judge just looked at us and said, 'You're already a family, this just makes it legal,'" Charity said, tearing up at the memory. "We had waited so long and had been so afraid because if the decision failed we couldn't try again since adoption decisions are permanent."
That judge's response was one factor that showed the Muses that moving to Calhoun in order to open an accepting, non-judgmental private practice would be a good thing. Receiving affirmation in a "really unexpected place" demonstrated to Charity how there are compassionate people even where you least expect them.
Now that she's established in Calhoun, she knows she made the right choice. Statistically, she said, there are so many students and adults in the area who feel on the outside. Through her experience, Charity understands how high school, college, and even the years after can be difficult without a support system.
"I see myself as a place of safety and openness, as a holding environment," Charity said. "I try to lay out the best welcome mat that I can so people to realize they can be affirmed for who they are, no matter who they are, who they worship, who they love or where they're from."
And the Pentecostal tradition she was raised in? While she says she still has questions, Charity said she values her religious experiences and her years spent in churches. She doesn't want her faith to influence her patients and she never tries to push her beliefs on anyone else, but she says her life has been shaped by spiritual beliefs and moments.
"You're not alone"
When she was 13 years old, Charity said she would often find herself "trying to pray the gay away," and over the years, she was often the target of similar events within her religion. She experienced a church congregation try to cast a demon out of her because of her sexual orientation and listened to a church leader compare homosexuality to having cancer.
Looking back to her memories of spiritual trauma, though, Charity said it got better. And she uses her story to deliver that message to
"It might feel like it, but you're not alone," said Charity, offering advice to those in the community who feel on the margins. "There are people who are your neighbors that are ready to welcome you with open arms. It doesn't feel like that sometimes, but we are here."
Charity said looking forward she would love to see Calhoun transform to be a more inclusive and accepting place, as far as churches, gatherings and community events. One model she would like to see reflected in Calhoun society is an event Chattanooga hosted a few years back.
Around Thanksgiving, downtown Chattanooga was decorated with giant tables and food, according to Charity, and the guests were encouraged by the event planners to sit with someone they didn't know and get to know them.
"My gosh, what we couldn't solve if we would literally sit at the table with people," Charity said. "I find relationships change people's hearts and minds – not necessarily changing their beliefs or politics or religion, but changing their hearts and making them more open to others."
She would also love to see more "safe zone" training events, which explains how a community can be more inclusive and introduces accepting vocabulary for marginalized populations.
"I'd like to see others shutting down hate speech, putting their arm around their neighbor and saying that's not okay," Charity said. "I'd like to see community members coming together despite our differences and getting to know each other for who we are instead of just talking about who we vote for and where we go to church."
Charity sees many great things making their way to Calhoun, creating a better place where everyone can belong.
Charity works with ages 14 and up at Resonance. For more information on Charity or Resonance, contact her at 706-403-6148 or visit resonancecounselingcenter.com.
The Calhoun Times will welcome Daniel Bell as the new managing editor next week.
Bell, who currently works as the news editor for the Daily Citizen-News in Dalton, will take on his new role with the Calhoun Times starting Monday. He will replace current Managing Editor Spencer Lahr, who is moving back to Michigan to help take care of his family's farm.
"I'm excited to return to Calhoun as editor of the Calhoun Times," Bell said. "I've already heard a lot of good things about the current staff and I'm eager to continue the service the newspaper provides the community."
In 2005, Bell graduated from the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications. He worked in Rome for seven years, including as deputy editor of the Rome News-Tribune.
After his time at the Rome News, Bell worked at Racemark International in Calhoun as an e-commerce marketing manager. Then in 2015, he joined the staff of the Daily-Citizen News, where he has been for the last four years.
Bell is married to Samantha Bishop Bell, and they have a 6-year-old son named Donovan.
"It's often said that a newspaper is the first rough draft of history, and I aim to ensure that the Times continues to record and report on all those building blocks that construct the history of Calhoun and Gordon County on a daily basis," Bell said.
On Thursday morning, a truck traveling north on U.S. 41 veered into the opposite lane, striking a southbound motorcycle head-on and killing the motorcycle driver, according to the Georgia State Patrol.
According to Georgia State Patrol reports:
On May 30, around 5:45 a.m. a call to Gordon County 911 reported a wreck on U.S. 41 and Enterprise Drive.
A 1994 Chevrolet white pickup truck, driven by Donald King, 60, of Adairsville, was traveling north on U.S. 41 and crossed the center line of the highway, colliding with a southbound 2008 Suzuki motorcycle. Robert Burns, 48, of Calhoun, was driving the motorcycle and was pronounced dead at the scene. King was suspected to have minor or visible injuries.
A Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team responded to the scene, as well Gordon EMS. The collision took place in an active construction zone where there were lane closures and lowered speed limits.
No alcohol was involved and charges are still pending. SCRT will be conducting the follow-up investigation.
To round out all the learning of an entire school year, Sonoraville Elementary students had the opportunity to look toward the future and what careers they may possibly find themselves in one day during Career Day.
The special event gave students the opportunity to preview the many career opportunities in Gordon County, allowing them to explore and participate hands-on with community business leaders and employees from across the county.
Whether it was building bird houses with Ernie Smith of Battlefield Building Supply, learning about business management from Crystal Purser of Chick-fil-A, or getting in Charlie Durden's North Georgia EMC bucket truck, the kids were able to be interactive, ask questions and consider what they want to be when they grow up.
In addition, Gordon County Schools was able to provide educational stakeholders like video production teacher Brandon Hufstetler, Superintendent Susan Remillard, and AdventHealth nurse and Gordon County Schools Board member Dana Stewart to share their experiences and get students involved with CTAE pathway clusters.
Sonoraville Elementary school counselor Stacey Cohea was extremely excited to invite the Chamber of Commerce and Chief Magistrate Judge Pat Rasbury to speak, in addition to leaders or employees from Mohawk, Chick-Fil-A, AdventHealth Gordon, North Georgia National Bank, Home Depot, North Georgia EMC, Gordon County Schools, CrossFit Oscar Mike, Battlefield Building Supply, Gordon County's Sheriff's, fire, and ambulance departments, 4-H, Clint Hayes Plumbing equipment, and local truck drivers and construction workers.
"These partnerships are extremely vital for the success of all students because it gives purpose to the hard work and involvement they do in public school through obtaining an education," a news release from the school stated. "Students were thrilled to listen, inquire, and explore with these individuals. Sonoraville Elementary hopes to have an even larger turnout next year!"
A full list of speakers is below:
Amy Carey (human services); Beth Cole (Mohawk); Charlie Durden (North Georgia EMC); Kim Gallman (marketing, Gordon County Chamber of Commerce); Allie Griner (4-H); Clint Hayes (plumbing equipment); Ben Honeycutt (musician); Brandon Hufstetler (Sonoraville High School); Misty Langston (STEM); Matt Lessis (CrossFit Oscar Mike); Chris Pierce (finance, North Georgia National Bank); Crystal Purser (Chick-fil-A); Pat Rasbury (chief magistrate judge); Susan Remillard (Gordon County Schools superintendent), Elbert Shelley (deputy, Gordon County Sheriff's Office);Ernie Smith (Battlefield Building Supply), and Dana Stewart (AdventHealth Gordon, Gordon County Schools board member).