Six Tips to Survive Challenging Seasons in Life
(NOTE: This newsletter was delivered to subscribers on Sunday, March 16, 2014.)
As a subscriber to the SANITY Support Newsletter, you’ve most likely read one or more of the five books in the Setting Boundaries ® series. And as a subscriber, I promised to send you regular updates on new books in the series, and provide you with SANITY Support Tips, helpful tools, and valuable resources to live hopeful lives. I promised to blog often and offer free downloadable information on my website to help you find (and keep) sanity in your challenging relationships. However, I have not been very good at consistently doing these things.
But that is about to change, starting with this communication, and I hope you’ll hang in and give me another chance.
I’m deeply humbled by the growing number of subscribers to the SANITY Support Newsletter. Clearly, I’m not alone in my desire to find freedom from living on the gerbil-wheel of insanity that often accompanies life when we have weak or non-existent boundaries. I greatly appreciate the questions, comments, and thank-you notes I receive every day from around the world. Your heartfelt support and encouragement have been such a blessing. Especially during the past few years as the enemy has tried so fervently to stop me from following the call the Lord has placed on my heart.
You see; Satan doesn’t want any of us to be free from the bondage of unhealthy boundaries. He doesn’t want any of us to read books that bring us closer to God—especially the Bible. And he certainly doesn’t want me to write books that promote the need to put God at the center of our lives in order to set healthy boundaries, find peace, and walk in sanity. The fact is, the enemy wants to use every bad choice, negative habit and challenging relationship we have to keep us from having a relationship with the One who matters most—Jesus.
Something to Consider
Think about it, have you noticed that all hell breaks loose in your life when you feel convicted to make boundary-related changes in your challenging relationships? Particularly, when you begin to study God’s Word in relation to making changes? How many times have you felt certain that something has to change, only to find your strength sapped by another situation or circumstance that keeps you from doing what it is that you know you have to do to initiate change? How many times have you started to see a light at the end of the tunnel only to be hit by a speeding train of new trial and tribulation?
It isn’t always easy to set healthy boundaries in our relationships—or even with ourselves, for that matter—and it’s especially difficult when we’re trying to do it as we navigate through the turbulence of a stormy season in life. Trust me, I know.
Readers who have heard me over the years on TV or radio know I’m uncomfortable when a host calls me a “boundary expert.” The fact is, although I have devoted myself to research, write, and speak about this topic for many years, I still consider myself one of the most boundary challenged people I know. Truthfully, it’s my Achilles heel. I’ve felt called to write the books in this series not because I’m a “boundary expert,” but because I’ve been so monumentally challenged by the boundary choices I’ve had to make in life, that it’s caused me to delve deep into God’s Word for answers, understanding, and direction.
With that in mind, I’d like to share something I’ve learned as I’ve struggled through a particularly rough patch—Six SANITY Support Tips to Survive Challenging Seasons in Life.
Tip #1. Celebrate the Rewrites
Life is a “Work-in-Progress,” and God is the Master Editor who helps us rewrite the stories of our lives. It isn’t the end of the world if we don’t get things right in the first few edits. What matters is our willingness to let God take his red pen of wisdom and love and turn the text of our trials into testimonies of His goodness and grace. It takes countless revisions to create a book worth reading, why should life be any different? Celebrate the opportunities to rewrite your life stories—no matter how many revisions it takes.
As with most things in my life, I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way, more than a few times.
In fact, I have a confession to make.
Over the past few years I’ve had some major rewrites in my life. Sadly, I experienced a home foreclosure, a move to another state, and an unexpected divorce. Then, in rapid succession, I was embroiled in a bitter and costly lawsuit, forced into bankruptcy, and painfully estranged from a family member. Through it all, I ignored increasing health issues and tried to forge on—much to my detriment—and after an almost constant barrage of unhealthy stress and overwhelming pressure, my body gave up. It started with a life-threatening case of double pneumonia followed by a severely compromised immune system that left me fighting serious respiratory, sinus, and ear infections for an entire year.
This was certainly not a place I ever thought I would be as a “successful” author in my late fifties. I thought my story was pretty much written, I wasn’t anticipating so many epic revisions. It’s taken me a while to Celebrate the Rewrites God is making in my work-in-progress life, but I’m much happier and more hopeful now that I have.
How about you? Are you living the life you expected? Are you floating on a perpetual cloud of peace and contentment? Or have you been battered by the baggage of circumstances like I was? Truthfully, there have been times the past few years when I’ve been so overwhelmed by life, responsibilities, and choices that all I could do was weep bitterly about my tragic “lot in life.” The pages of my Bible are tear-stained, and the notes in the margins run the gamut of emotions, not all of them pretty. While I never doubted God’s love and grace during this tough season, there were times I questioned His plans and my life purpose. I did more than my share of whining and complaining about the messiness of my life, and I made more than a few poor choices as I got sucked into the drama, chaos, and crisis of my situations. There were days you’d have thought I didn’t even know what the words “healthy boundaries” meant, let alone the hopeful and healing precepts of SANITY. It was pretty sad.
Until the day God got my attention with three powerful words.
Tip #2. Change Your Perspective
God loves us and wants the best for us. He does not cause bad things to happen, but He sometimes allows them to happen for a purpose that we don’t always see clearly. We can trust that God will bring something good out of any pain we experience. His Word tells us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV). It comes down to our willingness to see the glass as half full—or half empty. When we change our perspective, we can change our lives.
The process of writing Setting Boundaries® for Women (the current book in the series) took me through a long season of despondence to a place of dependence on God and an understanding of His Word that I had never experienced. I didn’t write that book despite my circumstances but rather because of them. But it took a major change in my perspective to see the positive purpose of living through five of the most torturous years I’ve ever experienced.
If negative things are going on around you, how can you look at what’s happening in your life from a different perspective?
Because of all the turbulent life changes, my environment the past few years has been somewhat toxic. Not only because of all that has been going on around me, but more important, because of how I was responding to it. And we can always choose how we respond—even when awful things happen to us. True sanity is possible only when we have the willingness to shine the light of necessary change on ourselves, and accept the responsibility for our responses.
Tip #3. Own Up to Our Own Stuff
Bad things and unexpected circumstances beyond our control sometimes happen. But we must take responsibility for the part we play in how we respond to them. Likewise, when we make mistakes or poor choices, we need to accept the responsibility for our actions.
I’ve written this truth in every Setting Boundaries® book, and I believe it completely. However, during the past few challenging years, I wasn’t fully practicing what I preached. I got off track—way off track. But I’m coming back! I think there’s a lot more God is calling me to do regarding the entire topic of setting healthy boundaries, but He’s telling me I can’t do it by pretending I’ve got all the answers, or by trying to be perfect. And it’s time for me to stop lamenting over all the things I’ve let fall through the cracks during this season, and focus instead on moving forward. I’ve got to stop beating myself up for not being able to do it all, and begin to do what I can.
Tip #4. Give Yourself Grace
We can be our own worst enemy. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect, and it serves no positive purpose to beat ourselves up for the foolish things we do, or for the painful things others may do to us.
Today, I’m choosing to respond to all the challenges in my life with a desire to be transparent about my struggles and to boldly declare that I will no longer let the enemy overwhelm and paralyze me from doing the work God has called me to do. Will you join me in declaring this for yourself as well?
God has a plan and purpose for your life. Have you been so wrapped up in the drama, chaos and crisis in the lives of other people around you that you’ve lost sight of this? If so, it’s time to start applying the Six Steps to SANITY and take back your life! And it’s time to embrace God’s Word as it’s written in Proverbs. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV).
Tip #5. SANITY is Possible
The SANITY steps work—no matter what trial or tribulation we might experience. Following these steps is the secret to keeping God at the center hub of our lives, especially when things spin out of control. Using these six steps when we’re faced with challenging choices can help us balance emotional feeling with rational thinking—a critical component in setting healthy boundaries.
The Bible teaches that we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength. But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes stumble and fall along the way. Remembering these SANITY steps is a way to remember how much God loves us. This six-step acronym is really easy to memorize, and there’s a PDF flyer on the Free Stuff page on my website you can print to hang on your refrigerator bulletin board.
S = STOP repeating your own negative behavior
A = ASSEMBLE supportive people around you
N = NIP excuses in the bud
I = IMPLEMENT a plan of action
T = TRUST the voice of the Spirit
Y = YIELD everything to God
What the Future Holds
As I prayed fervently, practiced the Six Steps to SANITY consistently, and worked hard to change my perspective, the storm clouds in my life began to lift. It was then I found myself in a spirit-filled season of purpose and passion as I wrote the next installment in the Setting Boundaries ® series. And it’s a book that must be destined to change lives, otherwise the enemy wouldn’t have tried so hard to destroy my peace and focus during the years leading up to it.
A Young Women’s Guide to Setting Boundaries® – Six Steps to Help Teens Make Smart Choices, Cope with Stress, and Untangle Mixed-up Emotions is a candid look at what can happen to a young life when weak or violated boundaries motivate their choices. It’s never been easy to be a teenager, but today’s teens are facing incomparable obstacles and overwhelming expectations. Their abilities to make good choices and set healthy boundaries is critical for their survival. While I know God has a plan for my life exactly as it has been lived, I don’t doubt for a minute that things would have been much different had I made wiser choices as a teenager. The compassion I feel today for young women reminds me of how I felt for struggling parents when I wrote Setting Boundaries® with Your Adult Children.
Which brings me to the final SANITY Support Tip to help you navigate through any stormy season.
Tip #6. Never Give Up
Whether it’s challenging relationships with adult children, difficult people, toxic relatives, or even with food, it’s crucial that you get back up on the horse when you fall off—no matter how frightened or angry you are. Perhaps you’ve experienced an internal struggle with your own stress, expectations, or habits—or maybe it’s frustration over your job, career, purpose, finances, or health. Whatever situation pushes your boundary buttons, remember that God is always in control, and He will never give up on you—so don’t give up on yourself or on the people in your life.
During this new season of offering dependable SANITY Support to newsletter subscribers like you, I’m going to apply the “S” step and STOP pretending everything is okay when it isn’t, the “A” step by ASSEMBLING supportive people like you to help give me feedback and hold me accountable, the “N” step by NIPPING excuses in the bud (even those I’ve convinced myself are somewhat valid,) the “I” step by IMPLEMENTING a plan of action for setting goals to send this newsletter in a consistent manner, the “T” step by TRUSTING the voice of the spirit as He has been convicting me to write this message to you, and the final “Y” step, to YIELD everything to God. I must have faith that God is in control and that if I pray for wisdom and discernment, and walk in His Word and Will, that He will provide everything I need to distribute this newsletter on a regular basis, including divine revelation for the monthly message He wants me to share.
Will you please hold me accountable to my SANITY Steps, and give me your feedback for ways that I can help you?
I respect and appreciate you as a reader, and I want to be professional, responsible, and dependable in communicating with you. In addition to my goal to send this SANITY Support Newsletter in a consistent manner, I’m also praying that we can build a Setting Boundaries ® reader community on Facebook.
If you haven’t stopped by my Facebook Author Page, will you please visit soon and “Like” the page? I’ve been working hard to post fresh inspiration, encouraging quotes and graphics, helpful SANITY Support tips, and reader Q&A. As we ASSEMBLE and share our comments online, you will become not only the “A” in my SANITY, but in the SANITY of our growing online community as well.
My vision for this newsletter is to provide you with valuable resources that will meet your needs, empower you to stand strong in your faith, and help you set healthy boundaries. And my prayer is that in finding SANITY, you will find yourself living with more peace, hope, and love.
In Appreciation for Your Feedback
How can I meet your needs as a SANITY Support subscriber? I will mail a FREE COPY of Setting Boundaries ® for Women to the first five people who post a feedback comment on my Facebook Author Page, and I’ll continue to offer surprise FLASH GIVE AWAYS throughout the week. Please pray about responding to any of the following questions below, and thank you in advance for your valuable feedback.
I would be deeply appreciative if you told me …
- What do you want to read in future SANITY Support Newsletters?
- What is important in your life today concerning boundaries?
- How has God been working in your life to help you make changes and set healthier boundaries?
- Have the Six Steps to SANITY empowered you?
- Can you share any of the steps that have been particularly helpful, and why?
- Which book in the Setting Boundaries® series has ministered to your heart the most?
- Have you participated in a 12-week SANITY Support group for the adult children topic?
- What kind of questions would you like to see answered on “Ask Allison?”
- What topics would you like to see in future Setting Boundaries ® books?
10. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Please post your responses by visiting my Facebook Author Page:
If you don’t use Facebook, feel free to respond to me at Allison@AllisonBottke.com.
In closing, I know this communication has been long, and I thank you for hanging in there with me to read it. The next SANITY Support Newsletter will be much shorter (I promise) and will be mailed around Easter. I’ll be sharing some of your feedback in that issue, and exciting information about how teen girls can participate in an advance readers group for the new book that will release in July. We’re also going to announce how you can take part in a Setting Boundaries® blog contest, and how you can win free books by some of my incredibly talented author friends.
Until then, thanks again for allowing me to share my heart with you. May the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your heart and mind. And may you feel the love and protection of Jesus with every breath you take.