Calming Words

I’m not feeling well (cold), my husband’s bother in law died suddenly a few days ago (heading out of town today for his memorial), Anna was in the hospital for a few days (uncontrollable nausea), I have lots to grade (adjunct professor), and I am perplexed about what to do regarding my business office (I love my office and don’t want to leave but rent is ridiculously expensive and my lease ends soon). As I focused on all of these circumstances I felt overwhelmed by a sense of hurtling through life too fast. So I said to myself, “Breathe, Karen. It’s ok. You are going to get through each of these pieces.” I relaxed a bit. When I woke up this morning, I looked at my daughter Rebekah’s facebook post and I saw these words by Lysa TerKeurst. I found this incredibly helpful for me. Maybe you will, too! 🙂



Categories: Acceptance, awareness, Boundaries, co-dependency, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Quotes, Recovery, Relationships | 2 Comments


Limbo. Fun, when it’s a game, not fun when it’s where you’re at in life. Most of us are working toward something the majority of our lives. We go to school so we can get a job, hopefully doing something we like. We work at our job so we can enjoy the present and save for the future. We get to retirement years so we can do all the things we didn’t do while we were busy working. We think we are only in limbo now and then when we’re waiting for something like a baby to arrive or the healing of an injury. I think, the time between our birth and our death is a limbo of sorts. We don’t really know anything about what’s ahead. I don’t mean to convey we shouldn’t be working toward goals. I do think it can be helpful in some instances to stop looking for what’s next, allow ourselves to be in the moment we are actually in, and not put too much emphasis on what lies ahead.

Categories: Acceptance, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: | 2 Comments


In Living in the Moment, I talked about making decisions with the information you have at the time. Here we are nearly six months later and Anna is wishing she had stayed in Phoenix. Her treatments stabilized her lung functions and she is hovering at 30% lung capacity. Not bad enough for a lung transplant, not good enough to have much energy, especially at 5200 feet in Colorado. She wishes she knew this is how things would be for her. If she did, she would have kept her apartment and only taken a medical leave. Instead she is sitting in Colorado waiting…waiting for her lungs to fail further so she can move to North Carolina and start the process for getting listed for new lungs.

The best we can do for ourselves when we have the view of the past from the present is give grace for the decision we made. Anna’s decision seemed the best at the time given the limited knowledge she had.


Categories: Acceptance, Self-Help | Leave a comment

Sitting In Someone’s Pain

I was pondering the struggle of a butterfly as it makes its way out of a chrysalis. I was thinking about the word for that and catharsis came into mind. That isn’t exactly the right fit but I was considering how important it is not to stop a person from releasing deep emotion; just like the butterfly who struggles to get out of the chrysalis. If we snip the chrysalis and free the butterfly it will drop to the ground, its wings useless. The struggle is what strengthens its wings and enables it to fly, a critical component to a butterfly’s life. If we do the same to a person, pluck them out of their internal struggle, they may not strengthen necessary parts within.

Catharsis involves a process to free oneself of profound emotion. If I say, “Oh you’re fine, just move on” or “Look at the bright side of life”, the person is being encouraged to ignore or push down his real emotional experience. There is power and freedom in allowing our emotions to rise to the surface and spill or even gush out of us. If we can do that with others who are willing to hold that emotion with us, the healing is exponential. The job of the holder is to be there, which communicates, “Yes, I see your pain. I will not ignore it. I will not tell you to ignore it. I’ll sit with you as you feel it. I’m here. You are seen and not alone.”

Sometimes people need words, some need silence. Some people need physical comfort, some don’t. As one who sits alongside another in her pain, ask how you can best support her in her pain. She will likely tell you. “Just be here with me.”  “I need a hug.”  “Tell me it’s ok to be so sad.”

Stay away from moving her to fix or solve her problem. She will either get there on her own as she allows her pain to be felt or she will ask for your help in what to do about the situation. If she doesn’t, at some point, after lots of tears, you may ask, “Would you like help figuring out what to do about this?” If the answer is no, accept the no and don’t press the issue. You can say, “If you ever want to talk about the pain or solutions, I’m here. Just ask.”  If the answer is yes, search together for solutions. Avoid having all the answers. Let her explore, too. Even the searching for the next step is part of strengthening her wings.

For some, simply the experience of purging the emotion and being literally or figuratively held in that space is all he needs for healing. Some pain doesn’t need a solution or a next step, some simply needs to be felt and released. And sometimes that same pain comes back again, and needs to be released, again. It’s all a part of the healing process.

Sitting with someone in their pain is not easy. That’s why many of us avoid it or try to smooth it over so the person doesn’t make us uncomfortable. Press into that. What’s that about you that you avoid emotional pain? Maybe you have your own catharsis to experience!

Categories: Self-Help | 2 Comments

The Power In Being Heard

Sometimes the best self care is being heard by someone who cares. I was recently feeling a bit down. I spent time with God, reading His words (the Bible), sat in my favorite chair with my dog, did yoga, and went on a walk. These are all self care activities I need on a regular basis to fill myself up but on this day, nothing seemed to help. By the end of the day, I finally called my husband and told him I was down. I told him why and he just listened. He was compassionate with me and gently said things like, “That’s hard,” and “I hear how sad you are right now.” He didn’t tell me what to do to feel better or how I should just snap out of it. I didn’t need any fixes, I just needed to be heard.

As I talked with him I also explored some of the factors contributing to my sadness. It felt good to connect the dots. He didn’t connect them for me but instead just listened with compassionate responses so I knew he was listening to me. Toward the end of our conversation I started to feel the darkness lift. Just speaking my experience was helpful. That was what I needed to move through my sadness and out onto the other side.

I know that in all circumstances there is no one size fits all. There are times when I want help figuring something out and will ask for ideas. It’s important for me to keep up my self care as well. That said, there’s something super powerful and healing about being heard, being seen, and validated in our experience.

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Relationships, Self-Help | 2 Comments

Choose Your Ride

We have choices every day of how we will respond to each thought that soars through our mind. Those thoughts of ‘not enough’ or ‘too much’ are going to show up. It’s simply a reality for most of us. So what do you do about those pesky thoughts when they show up? Fight them! Send them away! If you give those thoughts very much air time in your head, you are setting yourself up for a dangerous ride that is very hard to get off once you get started. The key is, don’t get on the ride! Seriously. We think we can’t stop those thoughts, but we can. We have the power to say, “No!”

After saying no, stay away from the pendulum swing of telling yourself you are the best because that isn’t exactly true. You don’t want to combat the false negative with a false positive, over-inflating your ego. Be realistic. Here’s what it might sound like: “Uh oh! Here comes the thought that I’m not enough. I am enough. I may not be perfect, but honestly, no one is. People might seem perfect sometimes, but truth is, nobody is. My job is to focus on myself and be the best me I can be. So, what am I going to do now to shift away from this lie? I’m going for a five minute walk around the block to clear these thoughts. While I’m walking I’m going to remind myself that I do not need to be perfect and I am enough.”

Choose to be kind to yourself instead of making yourself get on that scary, beat-yourself-up ride!

Categories: Self-Help | Leave a comment

Are You Sending Mixed Messages?

Are there people in your life you wish knew what you were thinking so you didn’t have to tell them? You know, the annoying co-worker who talks incessantly while you are trying to get work done. You want him to be self-aware and know his behavior is not acceptable because you don’t want to have to be the one to tell him. Maybe you smile at him to his face and act interested in his monologue. He likely has no idea how you really feel or what you are thinking. You are sending a mixed message.

Being honest is so hard because it feels mean. So, instead of being honest we harbor resentments against people because we are afraid of their negative perception of us. We start to resent the person and this begins to eat at us. The resentment starts to fester and begins to leak out in passive-aggressive behavior: a nasty look, a yawn, not making eye contact. We don’t want to tell the person directly what is going on inside of us but somehow we accept these unkind acts to avoid being direct. This behavior doesn’t make sense.

The best action to take is to kindly tell the person what our experience is. With the annoying co-worker, tell him in a gentle tone that you need to get your work done and do not have time to listen to him. I cannot promise he won’t be hurt but he will likely stop talking and head back to his desk. He might not talk to you again, ever. He might send mixed or passive-aggressive messages to you. He might talk badly behind your back. Those are common responses that come from unhealthy places in him, not you. You did nothing hurtful or wrong by being honest.

We live in a culture that disagrees with my view. We live in a largely passive-aggressive, mixed-messages culture. I think we need to change this. Resentment does harm to our bodies and sucks out precious energy. Honesty brings freedom and you might just get your work done!


Categories: awareness, Boundaries, Growth, Relationships, Self-Help | Leave a comment

Journey Forward For Life Test Group

cover againI have been using this blog to notify you of upcoming videos that will be available on my website. Every day gets us closer to the release date. We’re working out the kinks and are ever so close to being ready. I’m going to be creating a Test Group, people who are interested in being guinea pigs. There will be a limited number of spots available in the Test Group. If you are part of  the Test Group, you will get free access to the videos in exchange for feedback. If you are interested in being part of my Test Group, you actually need to be on my email/newsletter list. If you haven’t already signed up to receive my newsletter click on the button

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Categories: Journey Forward Workbook, Self-Help | Leave a comment

Reflections from Uganda

two-giraffes-at-sunset-copy.jpgI just returned from two weeks in Uganda. I was there with Azmera, an organization that puts on retreats for women who serve overseas. One theme that kept rising again and again was the belief that negative thoughts of oneself needed to be removed by God. If the negative patterns/thoughts remained even after fervent prayer, God was choosing not to heal.

Our negative thoughts/beliefs/patterns are usually the result of neural pathways we have developed over the course of our lives. The antidote is not miraculous healing, although that is totally possible, I have yet to see it happen. It would be like getting a diagnosis of obesity due to unhealthy habits and praying to God to remove the extra weight. Each day the weight remains seems to be the message you are not going to be “healed” of your obesity. It is wise to seek God’s help but you must also do some of the heavy lifting, in this case perhaps literally through increased exercise, also by changing your eating habits to meet the nutritional needs of your body but not indulging in all the wants (unhealthy food, too much food, the wrong kind of food for your body…).

I am an advocate of taking control of our thoughts through awareness and intentionally changing the way we think. I know this approach works because I have changed my own neural pathways. I’m not perfect at it and at times slip back into old patterns. I have also experienced the freedom when I make wiser choices around my thoughts. I sometimes feel less-than or inferior to others. If I let those thoughts take hold and go unchecked I can spiral into depression and believing I am useless compared to others. This is not true! It’s a lie! I have value and worth on this planet. I’m not the expert in all things and there are many who are more effective in the very same work I do but that’s ok. There’s plenty of room for all of us. The way I communicate, the understandings I have connect with some people and that’s good enough. I don’t need to be the end all. If one person is affected positively by my blog posts, books, sessions, etc., I am content. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake.

I want to encourage you to remember, we don’t change by praying or even just imaging ourselves as more healthy. We change because we do the hard work of living intentionally, understanding why we do what we do, sharing our story with others who compassionately love us where we are at, and taking the conscious steps necessary to create new and healthy neural pathways. God wants us to invite Him into the process, but I believe He wants us to do our part.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, neural pathways, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Tips From The Journey Forward Workbook: Neural Pathways

cover againTo get to this blog, you may have turned on your computer or picked up your phone, took the steps to get onto Facebook and perused people’s posts. You did most of this, if not all, without really thinking about what you were doing. That’s an example of a neural pathway. Neural pathways are these cool connections in your brain that get developed over time as you are exposed more and more to a stimulus and response. They can be for knowledge, like cat is spelled C-A-T or ‘gato’ is the Spanish word for cat. They can be for behaviors, like when you criticize me I get defensive.

It takes a lot of repetition for a neural pathway to become like a default setting: something you do without needing to consciously think about it. It’s a lot like cutting a new path in the rainforest. It takes a long time and a lot of work for a path to be well worn and easy to find. Anytime you want to change a behavior or learn something new, you will have to be very intentional about it for awhile. We get frustrated when we are trying to change because we keep doing the old unwanted behavior. Be gentle with yourself. Remember it takes time to cut a new path in the rainforest. 🙂

To learn more, check out the Journey Forward Workbook. Another option is the Journey Forward Workbook Video Series designed for those who prefer an audio/visual presentation of the information in the Workbook. It will be available very soon on my website: Journey Forward for Life. If you want to get on my email list and find out as soon as it’s available click the “Sign Up Now’ button.

Categories: Growth, Journey Forward Workbook, neural pathways, Self-Help | Leave a comment

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