3 Tips to Help Navigate Conflict This Holiday Season

“What are you yelling at me about?” I opened my car door and yelled back at the man in the green vest standing in the street next to me. I had been heading to the gym and following the stream of cars going around a white construction truck parked on the side of the road. A man was setting out cones behind the truck. The cars ahead of me went through the green light, but as I started to proceed through the light a man came around the side of the truck and began angrily yelling at me. Apparently I was supposed to go through the light on the left side of the road, although there were no signs to indicate this, no flaggers to point to this, and it looked like if I drove where he was indicating, I would be headed into oncoming traffic. “Why are you in that lane? You are supposed to be over here?” He gestured to the other lane. He was furious and I am not exaggerating. My own anger rose. “I was following every other car!” I yelled back. I also pointedly looked behind me at the line of cars who were following me. He forcefully indicated for me to continue through the light. His face a mask of utter disgust. I was shocked at the degree of his anger and shocked at the degree of my own. I was spit-fire mad.

I sped through the light and carried my outrage through my workout, barely able to concentrate on what the instructor was saying or doing. I wanted to go back and let this guy have it. As soon as I was finished, I raveled down the same street on my way home. By this time the lane was covered with road construction trucks and I could not see the man anywhere. I took pictures of the trucks parked on the street and when I got to a shopping center, I pulled over and called two of the companies whose trucks were at the job site to lodge a complaint about this out-of-control worker and the disrespect he had shown me and (I am assuming) other drivers. The company representatives I spoke with assured me that this would not be tolerated and that they would take steps to communicate with the employee that this should not happen to other drivers in the future.

I hung up and thought I would be satisfied, but I could not let it go. I met my dear friend for lunch and was distracted throughout our conversation, thinking about the angry exchange with the vested man. After lunch my friend and I went to see “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It is a touching movie about the iconic Mr. Rogers, about forgiveness, kindness, taking the high road, and grace. All great lessons I had been unwilling to apply with the man in the green vest. We left the movie inspired and motivated to be better people.

Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

Kristy, be quick to listen.

Kristy, be slow to speak

Kristy, be slow to get angry.

Wow! Though I did feel at the time the worker needed to be reminded of the importance of treating the public with respect and giving clear directions about where to drive in an active construction zone, I do not know if calling to complain was the right thing to do.. What I do know is that I did not show this man grace enough to consider the dangers and frustrations he must feel on the roads every day. I did not think of how he may have been having a very bad morning or fighting battles of which I had no idea. I know I was not quick-to-listen before I got angry. Instead, I yelled right back at him.

Tis the season of joy, kindness, beauty, family, and remembering the birth of a blessed Savior. It is also the season of possible loneliness, stress, pressure, high-tension and busyness. Lord, I pray for patience and strength and grace during this season. Please help me to first listen, then speak in truth and grace, if necessary. Please slow my quick-temper, so I may handle perceived offense or injustices the way You would have me to handle them. I pray peace for every reader during this holiday season. Thank you, Lord. Amen

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

A Gallery of Gratitude

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Florida. We stayed at the Grand Cypress Hyatt Regency Resort in Orlando, went to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, shopped at Disney Springs, rented a car and drove to St. Augustine (the nations oldest city) for the day, spent a few days reading and lounging by the pool and relaxing. I decided before we left that I would embark on a quest to notice and document through pictures “treasures to be thankful for” and share them in this blog when I returned. Here are just a few examples of the many:

The first morning, we woke to this view out our window. I had just been studying in Genesis about God’s covenant promise represented by the rainbow. It was lovely.

When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:16

We stayed at the same hotel at this time last year and could not wait to go down to the Lakehouse Restaurant located at the resort to partake of this delicious squash lasagna. Yum!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

As we were driving our rented Grand Cherokee down Highway 4 towards St Augustine, I noticed a billboard that said to turn to Z88.3. I did and it turned out to be great Jesus music. I gleefully sang the entire two hour drive. My blessing- yes- my husband’s maybe not so much.

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. Psalm 98:4

I was excited to see the nation’s oldest school house. I a sure glad some things have gotten easier for teachers and students.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

We had a few cold days while we were in Florida and even laughed that the temperature at the exact same time on one day was colder than back home in Utah. We took it as an opportunity to go bowling (neither of us had been in years and had a blast) and go to a fun Christmas movie (Last Christmas) at a Dine-In Movie theater with a waiter, real food, and heated seats. Yes!

I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.”-Philippians 4:11

The entire trip we were blessed with great transportation providers, especially from fun and friendly Uber drivers.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

Surrounding the lake at the resort, signs warned us to be aware of snakes, alligators, etc. Thank you, Lord, that in our many walks we did not encounter any of these creatures, only squirrels and a friendly black and white cat.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

We had a wonderful time on our vacation and as we paid attention, we noticed so many special gratitude gifts throughout the week. We received surprise coupons for free breakfasts at the hotel, Sky Priority on our luggage from a nice Delta attendant, moments of connection with waitresses, drivers, hotel staff, housekeepers, and other bus riders, etc, that made our days special and just the thrill of enjoying sights, smells, and sounds of “somewhere else”.

I am especially thankful for my husband, my partner, my friend. He makes me laugh and he watches over me. He has patience when I do silly things and he goes along with my antics. He may not want to dance in the street with me or sing “Let it Go” at the top of his lungs with Anna and Elsa, but he is right by my side while I do it and does not make me feel like I am a nut. Thank you, Lord for this incredible man in my life.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Meaning From Morning Memories

Every morning before the sun has even had a chance to cheer me on, I stumble into my peaceful little “prayer room” and write in my journal. For over twenty five years one of my strategies for sustaining my sanity has been to express my feelings in a carefully chosen notebook. Over the years, this exercise has metamorphosed into more of a letter to the Lord. In these daily communications, I write the brutal of what I am feeling, the honest, the vulnerable, the absolute real, but I do not leave the letter without including the grateful.

Every few years, I dig out my old notebooks and look through what I have written in the past. I am often amazed at the raw emotions that pour out on paper during certain times in my life. I am even more in awe over the time-after-time gratitude that follows these expressions of hurt, anger, frustration, confusion, etc. Once in a while, the gratitude for the situation will show up while I am writing the letter. At other times, it is weeks or months later. Trials I thought were hopeless to fix, problems that seemed insurmountable, hurts that were never going to ease and yet… here among these pages were statement after statement of “Thank You, Lords” proclaiming answered prayer according to God’s infinite wisdom. It is powerful to remember the “how” I got through some of these “floods”. It is comfort and reassurance. Thank you, Lord

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

Therefore, in honor of “Notice November” here are a few word-for-word “Thank You” snippets from my journal entries for the last few weeks.

  • Thank you, Lord for words to write when I approached my computer without any.
  • Thank you, Lord, that I know I will get over this pity party once I share it with You.
  • Thank you that your kindness leads to repentance. I am sorry.
  • Thank you, Lord, for listening
  • Thank you for friendly people who wait on me at the grocery store.
  • Thank you Lord, for writing and work yesterday, for getting lots of “little things” off my plate and for gym time.
  • Thank you for honest, real, touching talks with friends.
  • Thank you for putting up with my whining some days.
  • Thank you Lord for shopping time and connections with people around me.
  • Thank you For hugs
  • Thank you for the sweet tween trick or treating at my door who said, “I know you. You used to read to us.”
  • Thank you, Lord, for helping me develop “quick forgiveness” from the offense of yesterday
  • Thank you, Lord, for flu shots and “nice days”.
  • Thank you, Lord, for good family and friends and hope and direction.
  • Thank you, Lord, for encouragement.
  • Thank you, Lord, for the small comforts, joys, and pleasures daily. Please help me to notice even when I am sad.
  • Thank you, Lord, for your mercy and grace- for your forgiveness as I fail and put others above You over and over again.
  • Thank you Lord as yesterday was a battle- fierce and exhausting- You blessed me with strength, grit, and comfort- that kind I know comes straight from You.
  • Thank you for still loving me and for allowing me the utter openness to tell You how I feel.
  • Thank you Lord for those good days and for the days that teach.
  • Thank you for the hard and scary part of anticipating the doctor visit on Tuesday that leads me to put my trust in You (all okay)
  • Thank you, Lord, for reminding me during drama days, “Not my circus, Not my monkeys.”
  • Thank you for the hidden treasures of yesterday like the song in the waiting room.
  • Thank you, Lord, especially for knowing You, for the many times You have delivered me- even from my own traps, for changing and growing me, for being my Savior and so much more.

Dear Reader, Thank you for letting me share a small portion of my journal letters with you. I find such healing in writing and I am grateful to share my thoughts and feelings with those of you on the other end of this blog. You are in my prayers and I have thanked the Lord for you many times. Have a fabulous week. In His love and mine

Blessing upon Blessing

I love November. I love being with family- listening to them laugh with each other and catching up. I love that it is the month of the birth of my incredible son. I love watching grandkids running through whoever’s house we are visiting-playing some made-up only-for-cousins game. Of course, I love the turkey, the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and jellied cranberry from the can (my specialty). I love the crisp weather and the creative colors, but high on my list of reasons I love November is the reminder to NOTICE people, places, and things to be grateful for. Every time I stop and take a moment to actually NOTICE, my mood lightens. If I express it, my world gets brighter still. So thank you, dear reader for allowing me to express the grateful (in no particular order) I have noticed this week.

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. John 1:16

  • An unexpected call for your help
  • Perfect song playing in a public place at the perfect time
  • Fun fellowship with family
  • Surprise spectacular sunrise or sunset
  • Spontaneous lunch invitation
  • Kind representative at Delta Airlines- Thanks, Kim!
  • Cinnamon french toast
  • Out-of-the-ordinary promptings
  • Running into a former student. Yay!
  • Passing on a compliment to your son
  • Gym time with inspiring fellow exercisers
  • New friends, present friends, long-time friends
  • A funny meme sent by your grandson right before you go to bed
  • Impromptu tee time
  • Smell of “Eucalyptus Spearmint” bath gel after you wash your hands
  • Laughing out loud with your husband while watching “our show”
  • Guidance exactly when you need it
  • A baby’s smile aimed at you
  • A well-timed encouraging “like, comment, share, email, text, or call”
  • Anytime you hear the word, “Grandma”
  • Anticipation of a much-needed trip
  • Morning time in prayer room
  • New insights from scripture
  • Hot tub in chilly weather
  • The incredible intense colors of fall
  • His unconditional love, forgiveness, and never-changing presence
  • Another day

For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]. John 1:16 Amplified Bible

Grace upon grace, spiritual blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor, gift upon gift. Though God’s gifts are not always exactly what I am waiting for, asking for, or feel I need, they are there out of His fullness if I choose to NOTICE them. I am always happy to hear about what’s on your list during Notice November and I am praying that your next week is filled with blessing upon blessing. In Jesus name, Amen

Switch From Scared to Soaring

Bam! Bam! Bam! The powerful blasts at the front door woke me. I was alone and it was 3:00 a.m. in the morning. What was that? I leapt from my bed, my heart beating as if fighting to escape my chest. Bam! Bam! Bam! The aggressive power of the sound assaulting the darkness. I crept to the window of the bedroom at the front of my house and split the blinds slightly to see who was hammering on the door. It stopped. I watched as two large men with black jackets were slowly walked down the path away from the house. Adrenaline screaming- legs shaking, fright or flight setting in. Suddenly, slowly, one of the men turned his head back towards the house and caught me peering through the opening between the blinds! He spoke to the other man and both men turned back towards the door. Bam! Bam! Bam! The pounding was back. I am terrified!

Needless to say, the (too-long- to-tell- here) story ends up with me embarrassing myself not only with the two men at the door, but also on the 911 call with a very patient dispatcher. It turned out that the men were police officers and they were doing a door-to-door search for a middle- school age girl who had forgotten to tell her parents that she was sleeping over at her friend’s house. When I learned who the men were and what their purpose was (and later that the girl was found unharmed) my physical and mental fear abated. This fear, though powerful, was fleeting.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

It is a spooky time of year (just ask any elementary teacher) and for many people having a little jolt of scary is fun. It could be one reason we like dressing up as goblins and ghosts and vicious dinosaurs. Some people like scary movies, books, and haunted houses. They like that feeling of adrenaline when someone jumps out and frightens them or when a roller coaster takes that terrifying dip downward at tremendous speeds. This kind of fear is also temporary and has little hold on them. I often think (having learned from my three very courageous children) it produces a sense of accomplishment by overcoming “doing it scared”. I am not one of those people. I do not like most scary movies or books, hate roller coasters, or will avoid being frightened whenever I can. I feel like I get enough adrenaline just doing life and trying to navigated traffic on the freeway. Still, for most people most of the time, this kind of fear is harmless.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

However, there are fears that enter our everyday lives and shackle us. Fears that when left to run rampant in our heads can cage us within those flight or fight symptoms causing a prolonged feeling of imprisonment. It can keep us from living a full life. It definitely blocks joy and peace and can cause prolonged damage to our physical health. These fears include the fear of: risk, failure, confrontation, the future, your children’s safety, losing security, hearing bad news, trying something new, being vulnerable, being hurt, betrayed, rejected and many more. What happens when fears like these stalk us with ghostly chains seeking to hold us captive?

It must be a significant concern because I recently heard that there are 365 scriptures in the Bible addressing fear. That is a scripture for every day of the year. I have not counted them so I cannot attest to this, but the idea that fear is spoken of many times (including by Jesus) tells me it is an emotion with haunting consequences if left unchecked.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

In my own life I have found that I have little power to stop fear from showing up-unannounced and ready to pounce. However, since I am not a fan of the stomach tightening, dry mouth, heart racing, sleep-losing grips of fear, I try to fend off the frightening bombardments by singing or listening to fright-fighting songs and/or reading or speaking scriptures to ward away that teeth-baring fear and eventually eradicate the binding effect it has on my mind and body during an ambush.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Singing (used like garlic to repel a vampire) puts fear on the retreat- no longer able to make me hostage. For example, singing the lyrics from the song “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music which say, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” frees me every time I sing them. The strong but gentle heart beat settles, the breathing resumes its peaceful pace, the calm returns. I also love the music video, “The Breakup Song” by Francesa Brattecelli “Fear, you don’t own me.” Belting out (or listening) to “In His Arms” by Plumb is also powerful weaponry for me.

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness. Psalm 59:16-17

I do not mean in any way to minimize the real fears that people are going through or that there is an easy fix for them or that you shouldn’t be allowed to feel your fear. Life is scary. Fear is powerful. However, I believe God does not intend for us to walk through life bound by it, captive to it, owned by it. I believe that trusting the God that is Perfect Love will cast out fear. When I remind myself of God’s perfect love using song and scripture (repeatedly as necessary) and trust in Him to redirect and repel fear- to replace with it with faith, it will switch my course from scared to soaring- to freedom from fear.

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

Dear Lord, Thank you for each reader of this blog. Lord, please guide us into Your peace when fear threatens to overtake us. In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Healing Capacity of Story

Over the weekend, I attended an Author-Con Event. Elizabeth Smart was the first speaker. She told of the horrific events- the unimaginable trauma- that happened to her when she was fourteen. This was a story she could not hide from-not even after she was rescued. She could not erase it, ignore it, or pretend it did not happen, but she could decide what to do with it. She could write it, share it, speak before Congress about it to support important legislation that would help others who had been through similar experiences. She could start the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help provide education to children about internet abuse, violence, and sexual crimes. She could be a correspondent on television shows that fight the victimization of children. She could speak all over the world sharing hope and encouragement and comfort. She could write two books and create a documentary using her life story as a source of inspiration. She could go on a mission to share her faith. She could get married and have 3 beautiful children. She could start a new venture to help women and girls learn to physically defend themselves against an attacker and it seems to me she has only just begun.

Elizabeth Smart did not regale the audience with tales of these amazing feats during her presentation. I only know most of it because I did some research into her adult life when I got home. What she has done and is doing is incredible. She really had no choice to hide from what had happened to her. The story was too well-known. It goes where she goes. Her choices lie in how she writes the rest of the story of her life. She gets to define that story. And so do I. And so do you.

Several authors shared their life and writing journeys. The challenges were different and some of their obstacles I did not relate to, but in every story I heard a voice of grit, of encouragement, of healing and growth. I was uplifted by learning that none of them had experienced full fairy tale lives- none had escaped trials and/or trauma. These people were willing to share the raw of their story to help buoy up others who were in the midst of their own. They got me thinking about my own aspiration to use my redemption story to hearten others.

This fortification came at a time when writing the second half of my story has proven to be a menacing giant. I figured out one reason is because I would love it if my entire story went something like this: I had a challenging childhood, got married at a ridiculously young age, had three amazing children, got divorced several times, met Jesus as my Savior, lived in a log cabin for almost nine years, went back to school, became a teacher. The End.

But it is not where it ends. I want to declare that I never made another huge mistake. I never made a poor decision. I never made choices that would hurt my incredible kids. I want to keep the shame secrets secret. I want to hide the ugly parts. I want to say that I never disappointed the Lord after all that He had done for me. However, during this journey, I have found moments of pure-layer healing I didn’t know I even needed. I have found that sharing what the forgiveness and love of my Savior has done in my life with the hope of comforting or encouraging others has the capacity to help heal, even some of those parts that are still hurting me. I have received confirmations that encourage me to know that the Lord is helping others through the telling of how the Lord has gotten me through my own experiences.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

So now it is time for me to depend on the Lord to help me slay my new Goliath. I have recently realized that I need the time to process and write what I have never written before (or told many people) slowly (not week by week) and that the second half of my story needs to be written as part of an entire book- not a blog –though I will continue to write the blog as well. I have a goal to finish a first run copy within the next 6-8 months. I would be so grateful for your prayers as I continue this blog and work on the book at the same time.

What is your story? I don’t think everyone needs to shout their story from the rooftops. However, sharing how you have come through the difficult times of your life as a comfort and encouragement to others could partner you in a share of their healing. God comforts us to be a comfort to others.

who is comforting us in all our tribulation, for our being able to comfort those in any tribulation through the comfort with which we are comforted ourselves by God; 2 Corinthians 1:4

What is my story? I was never the same person after I accepted Christ into my life as my Savior. My every day became infused with hope and healing. Many of the hurts of my past were healed very early after meeting Him. Still, there are some issues that keep me among the walking wounded getting healed one chapter at a time. But I am, I have, and I will. Thank you, Lord.

Dear Readers, At the Author-Con conference, I learned that everyone needs what they called, “alpha readers or an inner circle” of supporters that keep them going. Thank you to those who have been that for me. You probably have no idea how your well-timed support has changed the course from “give up” to “go”. You have forgiven my mistakes (not just grammatical ones) as I learn (a big one was the password protected blog which caused confusion and seemed disingenuous to some- no more of those) and perhaps the time I sent out gift cards without explanation. While I thought it was a fun and silly way to say thank you for joining my Sonflowers and Soul email list, (check your spam if you did not receive the email gift card) some felt like I was paying readers to read the blog. I am sorry if I gave any of you that impression. It was never my intent. Thank you for letting me practice writing while still being there. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 I will praise you to all my brothers; I will stand up before the congregation and testify of the wonderful things you have done. Psalm 22:22

Dear Lord, Thank You for each and every reader of this blog. I pray that You would guide and direct me in my next steps and give me the courage to write this book. Thank you for the healing you have given me since I have known You and the healing You have allowed me through the writing of this blog and please help me to continue on this vulnerable journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Coloring the Gray Days

            Do you ever feel like you are walking through a landscape of gray days? Do you wake up to lusterless? Go through your day through a sheen of blah? Ever think about how you color your world?  What does the palette of your past look like? the hues of your future? The painting of your present? 

Shortly after I retired, I went back to the elementary school where I was taught for 14 years and I was nervous. I was afraid I would be melancholy and regret my difficult decision to leave. When I walked out the door on that last day (after a week of kind sentiments from beloved parents and students, and the incredible people I worked with) I painted my 26 year long teaching experience with rosy colors- shades of purples and pinks. 

Six months later, I attended a birthday lunch at the school in honor of my amazing principal and as I walked in, the rosy picture became splattered with the challenging browns and stressful fire reds of real elementary school. As co-workers told the adventures of the day (there is never a dull moment in elementary school) I remembered.  The colors morphed and deepened.  Then I walked down the old familiar halls to visit my previous students. Amidst the hugs, the tears, the joy of seeing them the grays muted. A vibrant rainbow- a kaleidoscope burst forth- a “whole picture” active and alive with glorious hue. By the time I climbed into my car to leave, I took with me an authentic portrait of my school career painted with all the colors of joy and struggles and I knew that (at least for now) it was time for new experiences in a different field.  As I drove away, I was so thankful to have worked so many years at a job of many colors.

            For a long time, I looked at my childhood through one monochromatic lens.  It was coal black. a picture of worthlessness, hurt, and anger.  Then one day I learned about a Savior who had forgiven me and I made the decision to pick up the brush and apply some forgiveness to the canvas of my own past.  The black page became animated with streaks of tangerine orange and pear green. Wow! It was a silent shout- a different perspective- a more authentic depiction. I added lemon yellow gratitude, and candy red lessons-learned and the past became a new likeness-the black was still there but now infused with pigments that were simply beautiful.

I applied the same strokes of forgiveness, gratitude, and lessons-learned to my past failed relationships-deeply etched with “victim gray”.  It worked! The swirling distortion of the picture of my past began to unbend and untwist into a true and rich landscape. Yes, there are hurts, even devastating betrayals, but there is much more. A whole healing picture!

            To the blank canvas of my future I add a different color scheme. To the ashen gray of worry, “what ifs”, or fear, I try to roll on those incredible colors of purple: lavender and lilac, plum and pomegranate and all those royal shades in between.  It is a mix of red and blue.  It is hope.  Adding hope to what the future might look like turns a dim sketch into a mural of possibilities.

           I have a choice about how to color my day today. I can let the leaden charcoal of discouragement, worry, fear, anger, etc. (and believe me sometimes I do) color my present or I can primer my daily canvas with an openness to a “whole picture” perspective. Then add a background of forgiveness (sometimes in spurts all day), gratitude, and lessons-learned. I can then splash my picture with hope (even dot the whole thing with apple-red adventure) and finally, seal it with a protective sheen of faith. I am not always good at this.  In fact, somedays are a combination of gray and/or black-an accumulation of all colors but lacks the Light to allow them to show. Once in a while even picking up the brush is a struggle, but if I try, I am often rewarded with a rainbow of richness- all part of this illustration of my life.

  • Forgiveness: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Mark 11:25 
  • Gratitude: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
  • Lessons-Learned: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:25
  • Hope: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
  • Faith: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Dear Readers: To join a direct link to this blog and more, please email me at sonflowersandsoul@gmail.com. I would love to directly communicate with you. As always, thank you so much for your support! With love in Jesus, Kristy

Good Medicine

The young family sitting on the crowded beach watched the boat slowly emerge and glide into the sandy shoreline. Two hefty men climbed out of the side of the boat into the thigh-high water, made sure the boat was securely beached and then positioned themselves at the edge of the small craft. They held their arms up as a woman in the vessel handed them each a wiggling overly-excited child. As the men carried their precious cargo to the beach, the woman gathered the other two children around her ready for another hand off. Once she placed the squirming little ones in the arms of the men who made their way towards the shore with their deliveries- it became the woman’s turn to disembark. The family watched (along with many others lined along the shallow beach) as the tall woman, rather than climbing over the side of the boat as the men had done, began sliding on the top of the bow towards the front of the boat. Perhaps she chose this route in an effort to keep her jean shorts and bright yellow smiley-face t-shirt from getting wet as the water was more shallow off the front. It was interesting entertainment to watch her slide slowly gingerly down the fiberglass top, but as she put her legs over the edge and went to turn so she could slide gracefully into the water, the cleat hitch on the front of the vessel grabbed the cuff of her shorts and pulled her forcefully back toward the hull. The six-foot-one woman jerked and was left to dangle in front of the boat..caught like a speared marlin. She squirmed, and swung, air-swam and swayed suspended off the boat’s edge. She was lampooned and unable to get off the hook- hanging helpless fodder for her audience of sandy onlookers and could do nothing but cry ” Help!” and wait for her companions to come wading to her rescue. As they gallantly lifted her off of the hook, the beach family joined the other laughing spectators as they responded with resounding applause.

Yes, that dangling damsel was me and I am thankful it happened before the days of Youtube or did not turn up on America’s Funniest Videos. To this day, it remains one of my “most embarrassing moments”. Nevertheless, I have told this story many times (usually to school kids, but still…) because it makes people laugh. Laughter makes for a merry heart and that, my friends, is good medicine for the soul and who couldn’t use some good soul-medicine?

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” — Proverbs 17:22

Laughter is chock-full of physical benefits. It relaxes muscles, boosts immunity, and protects the heart. It burns calories, lowers stress hormones, and has proven to decrease physical pain. Laughing eases anxiety, improves mood, and adds joy! It is a plethora of blessing.

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them.” — Psalm 126:2

This week I put this concept of laughter as medicine to the test. Like many of you, I had my share of challenges. As I was writing this blog. I found myself paying attention to my laugh-out-loud moments and how they made me feel less fear, less tightening in the chest, less negative knots in the tummy, and more at peace.

You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” — Psalm 30:11

Okay…”so did you hear the one about the…?” I can enjoy a good joke now and then, but there are many other ways you can be proactive and bring a bit of “merry” to your life each day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Check out funny youtube videos (My favorite is Gerry Brooks)
  • Go to a comedy club
  • Read amusing books
  • Recall and retell humorous stories
  • Do something goofy
  • Dance
  • Spend time with jolly people
  • Watch comedy movies
  • Start your day with a smile and pass it on

God has a smile on His face.” — Psalm 42:5

Last Sunday, I sat at a long and loud table at Goodwoods Restaurant. I was surrounded by grandkids on one side and my husband and adult children on the other. As I savored my Sassy Sauce-covered chicken, I listened to the sweet sounds of cousins chortling at jokes only kids can understand. I laughed along with the adults at a rendition of an amusing encounter in an elevator. My oldest told a story of unwittingly opening a never-used garage door to have it “pop”, “pop”, “pop” off low hanging lights that had been placed there after the door was installed. I watched my daughter’s face light up as she chuckled over something silly one of the kids said. We laughed as my younger son did tricks with his crutches, making even a broken ankle funny. We giggled over book choices, 90’s prom dresses, and ripped off toenails. Family laughter mixed with love…to a mom and grandmother… this is the very definition of good medicine for the soul.

“He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” — Proverbs 15:15

Dear Lord, Than you for bringing laughter into our lives even in the midst of trials. Please bless each and every reader with a portion of laughter and Your incredible dose of joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen

“Let your heart be merry.” — Judges 19:6

Keep Swinging- A Lesson in Perseverance

Dear Lord, Thank You for golf. The sheer lunacy of that “head down” “arms straight” “butt out” whacking with a long iron rod at a dimpled demon in an attempt to get it into a tiny hole (yards and yards) down a fairway would make anyone wonder-why not just shove those clubs in a dusty corner and go see a movie? Learning to “stick with it” even when it is hard is one of the compelling reasons I keep paying good money to cuss at a little white ball. Though the progress is slow and the improvements miniscule- that “one good shot” also keeps me going back.

“Don’t give up!” For the first two weeks, my former students had anxiously entered our classroom and looked for the word written in the top left-hand corner of the white board. This was to be our “word of the day”. We used it throughout the school day as a cue for transitions, as well as in casual classroom conversation. Our first word was “perseverance”. We talked about what it meant. Then every day after for a few weeks the “word of the day” was “grit”, “persistence”, “tenacity”, “determination”, “resolution”, “diligence”, “dedication”, “commitment”, “endurance”, and “steadfastness”. Third graders (being the incredibly perceptive people they are) soon recognized the pattern and when I asked what they thought applying our new word meant they soon began to loudly declare in unison, “Don’t give up!”

The teaching experiment paid off. For the rest of the school year, when math or reading or writing was challenging, we reminded each other of the benefits of applying perseverance, or grit, or persistence, etc. It helped us to keep working harder. I hope the lesson stayed with my students. Just the memory of it encourages the teacher.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

I am much better at persevering than I was when I was younger. If I wasn’t, I would have given up on golf years ago. Nevertheless, I still find myself facing tenacity crossroads. For example-and perhaps the one with the strongest pull in my life these days-is writing this blog. Some days finding the words (any words) is very difficult. Some days I am surrounded by whispers from those demoralizing devils who tell me “I can’t do this“, “I am doing it all wrong.“, “Just put your computer in a dusty closet and go see a movie” Every day it is scary and clicking the publish button is petrifying. But then, once in awhile, I hit that “one good shot” or I receive a supportive comment from a reader (Thank you), or I am subtly reminded of my aspired goal to encourage “one woman” and then…I can face the empty page and start whacking again.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

By the way, I am not writing about those circumstances that are soul-piercing on a regular basis. In some situations, it is wise or necessary to walk away. In those cases, I recommend seeking Godly counsel.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—Proverbs 1:5

I am writing about situations that are difficult, but beneficial if we hang in there. A good friend of mine told me of a lesson she heard once. The speaker encouraged listeners if they found themselves in a place of discouragement or just too tired, all they should do is take “two steps forward”. And then after that take another “two steps” etc. This was exactly what I needed to hear at a time in my life when I was tempted to quit what I was doing because it was so hard. Looking to the Lord for guidance and strength, I took “two steps forward” and then “two more”. It helped- a lot.

The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Isaiah 58:11

I appreciate the parts of my life that have been “tough” and made me “tough”. I loved teaching. I am so thankful for the many years I persisted. The rewards for that have been a joyful cup that overflows even to this day. I love golf. It challenges me in countless ways and is good for my mental and physical well-being. I love writing. While at times it tests my resolve to the core, it has become a new friend for me, a companion willing to listen to my thoughts no matter how many times I hit the delete button. I am thankful that when these life-parts that bless my life get hard, the Lord becomes my strength.

“My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Dear Lord, Thank you for the lessons in our lives which build perseverance. Bless us all with encouragement to have the strength to persist in those areas where we may be tempted to give up. Thank you for each and every reader of this blog. In Jesus’ name, Amen

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Two Words to Help Turn “Triggers” into Triumph

I was sitting on a cold steel table in the emergency room fighting severe chest pains. After two hours of tests, pills, liquids, poking and prodding, and attempts to get my blood pressure to go down, the doctor came in to tell me that what I was experiencing was an intense panic attack. What? This had never happened to me before. “But my chest really hurts!” I emphatically pointed out. “Yes” she said calmly. “Panic attacks really hurt.” What brought on such an extreme reaction? In the moments before my chest began its painful jabbing- my then- fiancee and I were having a discussion about going to a car dealership to buy a car. I was suddenly overcome with an irrational fear and not long after was headed to the emergency room.

A psychological trigger is defined as, “a reminder (including smells, sounds, or sights) of a past trauma that causes an overwhelming feeling of sadness, anxiety, or panic.” Strange as it may sound, the idea of going to a car dealership reminded me almost spontaneously of an emotionally traumatizing experience (no offense to car dealerships) and triggered panic. I did not know how to combat it and needed hours in an emergency room to calm down.

I am usually one of those irritatingly happy people who most often sees the world in a pastel rainbow swarming with butterflies . Of course, I do have sad times like every one else, however, my unhappy moments generally are just that- moments, rarely lasting longer than a few hours or a few days.  However, last May I got into a lingering funk. These particular blues were hanging on and because I could not nail down an apparent reason, I became “down” for being “down” which was causing me to be “down” on myself.

Then one morning I realized that I was experiencing a trigger. Last year at that same time, I had undergone many big changes in my life. I retired from a 25-year heart and soul career and started a new job with a huge insecure-inducing learning curve. That month I had also experienced some hurts that caused my spirit to need recuperating for several months. May was bringing this all back to me on a subconscious level and cocooned me in a deep sadness. When I realized most of what I was feeling was just a trigger about this time of the year, I was able to to begin to let go and move on.

In addition to learning the power of recognizing a trigger to help overcome its effects, I have also found that when I am triggered by something in the present that brings back something negative in the past, I can apply two tiny words to the situation and finish the sentence with a scripture to help me get recover more quickly. Those words are “and yet”. Let me explain.

Yesterday a five minute phone conversation triggered disquieting unrest. The words spoken did not match statements made a few weeks earlier. The incongruity in one simple sentence incited a fear that did not seem reasonable When I recognized I had been reacting to a reminder from the past, I applied my strategy. I thought: I am afraid and yet “God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind.” 1 Timothy 1:7 After a short time, I was able to think of the conversation in a more realistic light, let go and move on.

Most people have a few triggers. Some are healed quickly and others seem to take a lifetime. Some are severe and some are mild. I am discussing mild triggers that are sometimes helped by just knowing what they are so we can examine reasons we may be reacting a certain way. I have discovered that if I mentally or aloud state my true feelings, “I am afraid” “I am sad” “I am lonely” “I am hurt” due to a trigger from a past negative incident, apply “and yet”, and then finish the sentence with whatever scripture I have memorized or can find for my situation (sometimes repeated several times), it can be one helpful tool to find triumph over those triggers.

A few of my favorite “and yet,” statements are:

I feel weak, and yet, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

I feel sad, and yet, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7

I feel stressed, and yet, “When I am overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I”. Psalm 61:2

I am not a professional counselor or psychologist. I do not mean to suggest that this is a cure-all for any time you are sad, scared, or stressed. I do know that when I recognize I am experiencing a trigger from something that happened in the past using Bible scriptures can bring relief to my immediate reaction and put me in a place to see the incident more rationally.

Another strategy I have used is to refocus my attention onto something calming or more positive. For example, today I was in a class where the heat vent was blowing hot air directly onto me. For many years, this has caused me to feel anxious. It reminds me almost subconsciously of a traumatic time in my past. Usually when confronted with direct heat like this I can usually move or avoid it. However, today I could not change seats or better position myself. What helped was being aware of this trigger and then focusing on more positive things going on in the room (the instructor’s booming voice, the woman’s pretty pink bag that perfectly matched her sweater, a delightfully displayed fruit plate) to relieve my stress.

Also, I have found an additional method to help heal a damaging trigger is to replace the negative trigger with something good. For example, for many years, I used to dread Thanksgiving. My family has helped to make it a very joyous special day full of gratitude and now I love it. Thanksgiving is no longer a trigger for me.

Perhaps, you are wondering why you are feeling a certain way and cannot put your finger on why. It may be helpful to examine the possibility of being triggered by a stimuli in your environment or a reminder of a difficult event. If you already know your triggers and when they are sparked, you may want to try applying my “and yet” strategy by adding comforting scripture to combat what you are feeling, refocusing on something else, or proactively replacing the negative trigger as it arises with a deliberate pleasant experience.

Just a reminder: If you are experiencing acute sadness, chronic stress, or severe anxiety, please seek help from a professional medical provider.

Dear Lord, I pray for each and every reader of this blog. I know that You are the Healer, the Comforter, the Protector, the Strength, the Shield and I am so grateful for the healing that has been done in my own life and the healing that is ongoing. I pray for the healing of any reader who needs it right now and for comfort for any reader needing comfort. Help us to see the trigger areas and to turn them over to You so we can let go and move on. In Jesus name, Amen