Category Archives: Renewing Our Minds

Unsent Letters: The Lost Art of Self-Control

Unsent Letters_

Every few months I write a letter to a particular person in my life. I process, digest it, and ultimately decide not to send it. When I review the many letters I have scrawled out over the course of time, I can see the progression of healing, the quieting of anger or pain, and the increase of forgiveness. Perhaps because writing is my therapy, this was a useful exercise, but even better is being able to look back to something tangible—a journal of sorts—and see where years of prayer about the issue and the person have taken me.

So, why not send it, Bonnie? Big whoopedy-doo that you wrote it. Isn’t reconciliation about the sending?

Sometimes, yes. But had I sent my original versions, I doubt they would have bridged any communication gaps with their raw emotion. And if I don’t wait on God for the timing, no matter how “ready” I am, the other person may not be. So, I don’t know. Will I ever send one? I believe I will. My heart beats for reconciliation. But the peace of God has to be there first. That is what I have been sorting out recently as I wrote letter #5 or #6 to this person. I’ve lost count.

I’ve drafted many letters along these lines to many people, never having sent them to:

  • school administration or teaching staff
  • church leadership
  • friends
  • family members
  • other parents

for various reasons: Read the rest of this entry »


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Pushing Through Fears

Pushing Through FearsDo you have any fears that hold you back from fully functioning? Does it sometimes feel like you are pushing against a weight of overwhelm? Maybe your fears taunt you in the middle of other areas where you feel accomplished. They may look different for each of us, but they can be paralyzing and growth-stopping.

You know what else they do? They deliver a feeling of defeat.

And you know what? That’s not Kingdom (-of-God) living.

Some of my fears are irrational. For example, I fear that if I stop advocating for certain injustices or for my son with special education needs, the world will stop turning. That’s called hypervigilance and sometimes crosses the line into catastrophic thinking. I usually can do the self talk involved to chill myself out, talk myself down.

Like many people, I am afraid of letting people I love down, not meeting expectations, or  unintentionally hurting someone.

I back out of my driveway panicked that a child on a bike will go by.

I fear the local black bear entering my yard (it has entered my neighbor’s property) and eating my Shih Tzus.

I can’t say these fears regularly keep me up at night, but they definitely steal joy.

Know what I mean?

Here are the ways they thieve me of peace: Read the rest of this entry »


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A Lesson from Life on the Prairie

A Lesson from Life on the Prairie-2Over school breaks, my family likes to binge-watch some of our favorite television series. We are a bizarre mix of interests: everything from science fiction to historical drama. We are huge Doctor Who fans, and recently, I introduced my two younger children to LOST. At the time that show first aired, our family had made a decision to accept a temporary post in the Marshall Islands for a few years. LOST became a reality to us in more ways than one, but that is a story for another day. My tween son really enjoys The Flash.

When she can manage to find the time, my daughter loves following Little House on the Prairie, which takes me back to my childhood. My mother and I have vastly different emotional wiring, but the end of a Little House episode was one of the few times I would see her shed tears. As an adult now, I think I understand why. The wholesome, Christian values presented in every crisis on the show are the end goal, right? They show what we should aim for, more or less, but also where we currently fall short. Whatever he was in his personal, real life, the actor who played Pa Ingalls brought an ideal into our living rooms each week.

And Pa regularly weeps.

My stoic daughter sees this as a bit overdramatic at times, and perhaps it is. But for me, Pa’s tears are a huge relief.

Life hurts. We fail at times. We can’t control other people or outcomes. And wayward children/teens/adults often have to learn the hard way.

We have made our way (after many years of intermittent watching) to Season 9, the final season, and in it, Pa’s adopted son Albert starts experiencing negative behavioral changes. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd, needing acceptance, and in the city life, he falls prey to a morphine addiction. Pa does what he can to change the environment to give him a new start; they temporarily move out to Walnut Grove again, but taking the addict away from the temptation does not produce a cure.

When I entered our family room, I caught a scene where Pa locks Albert Read the rest of this entry »


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Fighting “Still”—and Other Struggles of the Season

Fighting Still—and Other Struggles of the SeasonI am not very good at keeping still. In fact, I turn still into a such a multitasking event that I defeat its entire purpose. Last night, for example, I sat down to watch The Peanuts Movie with my youngest son, and I turned it into a moment of buying a subscription to a creation science magazine for my oldest child for Christmas.

I was always the child who had to play a board game with myself or work on a scrapbook project while watching television. Even when my friends would come over to play Barbies, I would sing commercial ditties or manage multiple tasks at once. Ask any one of my childhood friends, and she will tell you I drove her nuts! Being at rest is not a concept I have ever understood. I have always been driven and project-focused. The night of my bridal shower, I stayed up late for hours to make sure all thank-you notes were immediately written, stamped, and addressed.

For a long time, I chalked it up to an amazing work ethic. I was the ant of Proverbs 6—and proud of it!

Proverbs 6:6-9, ESV

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?

Right now, for example, I am writing an email reply to my mother while

–looking for dressy heels for my daughter at Famous Footwear online, 

–writing this article, 

–checking on the dogs, 

–and thinking about the school evaluation forms I have to fill out and promptly sign and return to special education office in the school district. 

I also might stop and wrap one present.

I might be productive, but I certainly am not focused.

What does still mean for you?

My still consists of the few moments Read the rest of this entry »


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Expectant Like Mary

Expectant Like Mary

This year, I made myself a promise that I would buy 95 percent of Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve even managed to ship a few care packages and boxes of presents already. I think I learned from previous years that if I want a peaceful, Christ-focused Advent season, I have to be organized, planned, and efficient.

Two years ago, my father passed away on December 2. Advent was a blur. I don’t even remember if I shopped. This is a difficult time of year for that and other reasons, and I am choosing to spend December reading about shepherds watching their flocks by night, singing worship carols, and focusing on Immanuel, God with us. I want to create more family time, play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, The Christmas Story, and Elf. I can’t wait to cuddle my dogs on cold nights and breathe in Christmas candles and essential oils diffusing in every room. I look forward to my daughter baking cookies and filling the house with the delightful smells of Christmas.

I want to be expectant in my heart and soul, like Mary, mother of the Christ, my heart trusting in my God.

Luke 1:46-50, ESV

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

What about you? Did you anticipate the fun or the stress of last-minute grocery runs for the cranberry sauce, post-Thanksgiving cleanup, Black Friday shopping, crowds, traffic, and the tensions that can be both beautiful and stretch us taut when around extra family during the holidays? Did you put up your Christmas tree? Lights?

Is there anticipation in the air—or just weariness?

Whatever season you are in, wherever the needle on your stress gauge is at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »


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Finding Peace for Stress Junkies Like Me

Stress Junkies Like MeStress has been piling up in my house of late. College application deadlines. New braces. Another (brief) parking lot accident. And add to that every major road leading out of my town is currently under construction. Yes, massive stress bubbling under the surface. It’s the kind of pressure that leads to hypervigilance.

Deadlines do this to me, especially life-course-determining ones. Anxiety used to be my roommate. I kicked her out a while ago and changed the locks, but once in a while she slips in through an unlocked back door. That girl knows no boundaries, I tell ya!

In the middle of one of those days, I took my son and husband to the airport for college visits (landing in rush hour traffic both to and from Boston) and made it home in time to get my daughter to dance, throw a nicer shirt on, and attempt to manage back-to-school night at the high school jumping between the schedules of a freshman and a senior on a massive campus. It felt like an episode of a teen sitcom as I rushed around trying to slide into each class before the bell rang.

So it was in my great hurry to arrive at the last class that I cut a corner down a hallway, and, to my great surprise, there was a low-to-the-ground, black end table next to a couch in the loft area between halls. I imagine high school students gather and are aware of the furniture there—but not me. I was not aware. It simply was not in my line of vision. I had Algebra I, Part 2 (whatever that is) to get to, where my friend teaches the class. What a nice way to end the long day, except for this: Read the rest of this entry »


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If Waves Could Speak

If Waves Could SpeakEarlier today I found myself standing with my toes in the sand staring out on the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from the vantage point of Duck, North Carolina (Outer Banks). My cousins had generously shared their vacation with me, and my husband committed to the intense job of Mr. Mom in addition to his many other duties all week.

Considering we are in the throes of college application deadlines in our home, I couldn’t run for that airport terminal quickly enough! I left three kids, two dogs, two tree frogs, and three caterpillars behind. Begrudgingly, my husband took on frog duty, and I am happy to say that within two days, they captured his heart as he watched them hunt crickets and their little throats vibrate. (If you have not witnessed this, it should go on your bucket list!)

Our view is oceanside. With the sliding door set to screen, we can hear the waves crash to the shore. After days of high winds, we finally made it out to the beach.

With toes dipped in the water alongside my cousin, she offered me a precious memory of her mother, my late aunt, in the waves one summer. I thought about my children playing in the waves on many a beach escape. And if I really went deeper, I knew the waves knew so many of my secrets, dreams, memories, and emotions.

As the ocean water surged to a crest and then spilled over to crash, it looked as if it was responding to a hidden nod that it was time to bend and roll, with a delayed reaction in parts of the line but otherwise mastering uniformity in the landing. An invisible agreement. A knowing.

And I thought about what the waves would speak of, if they could speak about my own life, and what they had witnessed: Read the rest of this entry »


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