Reader Book Recommendations


Let's spread the word. When you see a great movie to talk about it, right? Well, let's talk about books instead. For the month of July I would like to feature books our readers have read that have helped them in overcoming difficult circumstances in their lives. If you have a book or two or three that were tremendously helpful to you and you would like to recommend them, please email me at admin [at] Please include why you liked it and how it helped you. If you want to share your full name, that's great, otherwise I will include only a first name or initials.

Suggestions, Please

December 26, 2011

I pray you have had a wonderful Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) and that you are enjoying the season. I am on vacation so there will be no new articles posted until later this week.

As I pray and contemplate the direction of Glory and Strength for 2012, I ask you, my readers, what issues would you like to read about; what are you struggling with and where do you need help? Please post your suggestions via a comment or email me: admin [at] Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome all year long!

I pray that 2012 will be a year of healing, growth and victory for you all.

Many blessings,

Debra L. Butterfield
Editor and Publisher

Maybe This Christmas Will Be Different

by Kimberly Chastain © 2009

Have you always dreamed of a Norman Rockwell Christmas - where everyone is singing Christmas carols and there is joy in the house? Alas, your Christmas memories are often filled with Uncle Joe getting drunk and your parents ending up in a fight. By the end of Christmas day family members are mad and no one is talking to one another.

Christmas can be very difficult if you grew up in a dysfunctional family and you choose to go home for Christmas. Often the holidays bring out the worst in families instead of the best. Old arguments that have never been resolved are reignited. Old wounds that you thought were healed are ripped open once again.

Is there anything you can do to truly make this Christmas different?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay quiet. Many times you won't win the age old argument. Is it worth the fight?

2. Have realistic expectations about what will happen at your family gathering. Often we dream and envision things will be different and our dreams are crushed once again.

3. Limit your time or choose not to place yourself in toxic situations. If you will be putting yourself or your children in physical or emotional danger you may need to choose to stay home.

4. Remember and be with your "adopted family." Often people from dysfunctional families have extremely close friends who feel like family. I have had several people tell me about a friend who is like a sister or a mother to them. You may choose to spend Christmas with your "adopted family."

5. Remember your heavenly Father loves you unconditionally and that He can meet your needs, even when your earthly family does not meet your needs.

6. Recognize that there is a difference between forgiveness and acceptance of actions. You can and should forgive family members and others who have hurt you. That does not mean their actions were acceptable. Also, you can be cautious of putting yourself into situations where you could be emotionally or physically harmed once again.

7. Don't be too hard on yourself. You may have made great progress in your own spiritual and emotional growth and find when you go home you are right back where you started. Dysfunctional family patterns have a tremendous pull. You can realign yourself when you return to your own home.

8. Make a conscious choice to raise your own children and live your life in a more healthy family. Decide what new Christ honoring traditions you want to start for your family.

9. Be open to and aware of other people who come from hurting families. You have a story you may choose to share of the healing that has occurred for you. You can give others hope.

10. Be aware that your own addictions may resurface. Those could include overspending, overeating, drinking, or drug use. Often we try to soothe our emotional pain by overspending or overeating.

Above all I pray you will be kind to yourself. Have realistic expectations of what Christmas will be for your family. Create your own good memories with your own family or your "adopted family." Remember Mary's first Christmas was probably not what she expected. She probably did not plan on delivering Jesus in a barn, but what a blessed and glorious night. May God be your peace and joy this Christmas.

Eight Ways to Beat the Blues at Christmas

By Poppy Smith

Instead of a houseful of kids and their little ones running around laughing, crying, playing with toys and sneaking treats, this year my husband, Jim, and I will be home alone for Christmas. My automatic reaction is to feel sad—but I am glad that all of them will be celebrating the coming of Jesus with their in-laws. After all, we are usually the ones who get that privilege!

But—it’s easy to be sucked down into a “poor me” mindset and play the blues, unless we decide to change our perspective. So here are eight simple ways to help you enjoy the holidays whether you’re physically or emotionally alone. Why not join me and let’s beat those blues which aren’t where God wants us at this special time of the year—or at any time!
  • Sing. Play music. Listen to the words and join in praising God. Singing is a guaranteed mood lifter and perspective changer. “Sing for joy to God our strength” Ps.81:1.
  • Smile. Smile at little children. Their harried moms. The older shoppers who are trying to find just the right present. Make smiling your chosen expression (not through gritted teeth, however!). It will make you feel so much better and maybe lift up another lonely soul.
  • Invite. Is there someone you haven’t had time for this past year? Could you suggest meeting for coffee, lunch, or even over to your home? Perfection isn’t needed—only a loving heart that looks beyond its own world.
  • Rest. Remember all those too early mornings when you longed to just stay in bed? Now’s your chance. Take time to read a book of the Bible or several psalms. Choose a special book, magazine, or television program. Make or buy some once in a year yummy treats and ENJOY this gift of time!
  • Give gifts to others. Go online and look for simple Christmas recipes. Make peppermint candy or a cranberry loaf and go drop it off at a homeless shelter or place that serves those without a home. Change your perspective from looking inward to looking outward—as God our Savior did when He gave us the most amazing gift of love any one can receive.
  • Write a list of your blessings. Think back over this past year. Even if it has been one of the most difficult you’ve experienced, ask God’s Spirit to show you where He was present, loving and supporting and guiding you through. He will show you something and lift your heart.
  • Go to a Christmas Eve Service. Even if you’re by yourself, don’t miss the presence of God amidst the beauty of this celebration. Let your senses feast on the beauty, your ears delight in the music, your heart be moved to new heights of gratitude and love.
  • Pray about your dreams for 2012. What do you want to see happen in the coming year? Have you thought about changes you want to make? New paths to walk? Write out what comes to mind when you think of taking better care of yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. (See my video: Take Care of Yourself, …….. or check my website on the media clips page).
May your “Home Alone” Christmas fill you with joy and a fresh awareness that Christ is with you, whether you’re surrounded by people or peacefully alone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: With her fun personality and passion for communicating life-changing truths, Poppy Smith inspires believers to thrive spiritually and personally. Poppy’s practical how-to messages (in print or in person) use colorful examples from her own struggles to be more like Jesus. She encourages women (and men, at times) to grow in every kind of situation—whether joyful or painful! Poppy is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. She brings an international flair seasoned with humorous honesty as she illustrates Bible truths. A former Bible Study Fellowship Lecturer, Poppy’s teaching challenges women to look at their choices, attitudes and self-talk. As a result, God’s speaks, changing hearts, changing minds, and changing lives. Sign up for Poppy's THRIVE newsletter at:

A Blue and New Christmas

by Alan Allegra © 2009

Many of us whose memories are slipping are old enough to remember Elvis singing, “But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas.” Stuttering aside, his point was that, instead of red and green and white, his sorrows would paint a predominantly blue Christmas. For many, the joyous sounds of others at Christmas time only echo sadly within the hollow memories of happier times.

Some churches now hold what they call a Blue Service, quietly geared to those who, for whatever reason, are not experiencing Coca Cola and Currier and Ives Christmases.

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the “cuddly babe in the manger,” with great joy. Later in the year, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, with great joy. Joy, joy, joy. We almost look down on anyone who claims to be a Christian and who isn’t walking around with a sparkly smile and a bounce in his steps. Just like Charlie Brown and the empty mailbox, it looks like Christ has nothing for them.

The truth is that Jesus has something for everyone. At this time of year, we often turn to Isaiah 7:14 or 9:6, the Old Testament Christmas verses. If you are having a Blue Christmas, I challenge you to read all of Isaiah 53. Let’s focus specifically on a few key passages.

He Sees You When You’re Sleepin’...

By Dr. Charles W. Page

Do you recall trying to sleep on Christmas Eve while waiting for Santa to come to town? The anticipation of Saint Nicolas and all his goodies was just too much—who could sleep? The lyrics of Santa Claus is Coming to Town taunted me. “He sees you when you’re sleeping—he knows when you’re awake…” I tossed and turned trying to fall asleep, fearful I’d miss out on Santa’s visit if he caught me awake. I never doubted Santa’s ability to be aware of my wakefulness.

Unfortunately, as adults, the issues that keep us awake during the Christmas season are more complicated than those we experienced as kids. Financial burdens, strained relationships, difficult decisions, brooding regrets and fretful thoughts race through our minds and hinder our rest.

There is someone who “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.” It’s not Santa Claus. The Bible reminds us, God’s eyes never close. Perhaps this truth can tuck us in for the night.

“He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)

We erroneously think that as we “turn in” that God somehow “turns off” or moves on to do more important things. But God doesn’t wait for us to wake up before He returns to work. God is just as active during our sleep—or sleeplessness. Believers can rest assured knowing God is awake guarding our lives.

What does God do as we slumber? Psalm 127:1-2 reminds us that God gives to those that He loves as they sleep. What does God give? Understanding God’s generous nature, one rendering would be that God gives to the believer whatever is needed at the time. God can give you wisdom and direction with decisions as you “sleep on it” overnight (Psalm 16:7, James 1:5). Maybe there is a financial need. The scriptures are filled with examples of how God provided for the physical needs of those He loved as they rested (I Kings 19:1-8; Exodus 16:1-8).

God’s gifts are good, perfect (James 1:17), eternal (Ephesians 1:3) and purposeful (Galatians 5:22-25). They do not require batteries, warranties and cannot be purchased in stores. But they are available 24/7/365—not limited to one night each year. God’s greatest gift did not arrive under a tree but on a tree (John 3:16). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

It’s plain to see, God has our back as we sleep. Try this Christmas recipe for rest.
  1. Repent—in areas where we are aware of our transgressions. “A clean conscience makes a soft pillow.”
  2. Release—control of problems you’re facing and give them over to God.
  3. Relate—connect with God through prayer and meditation while in bed.
  4. Rest—allow God to do what you cannot do for yourself as you sleep.
  5. Receive—God’s unmerited forgiveness, grace and blessings while you sleep.

An English proverb reminds us, “As you make your bed so you must lie in it.” The truth of God’s Word helps us face our situations. Although we cannot change the failures of our past, we can rest with a clean conscience based on God’s gift of forgiveness. Our current circumstances may appear overwhelming, but God gives His presence and His guidance in our hour of need. Our future is secure and hopeful when God’s greatest gift—His Son—is kept in view. A life supported by a vibrant, healthy relationship with the Shepherd of Sleep makes the most comfortable mattress. In childlike faith learn to trust Him as you lie down to sleep and remember: “He sees you when you’re sleeping.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Charles W. Page is a sleep-deprived surgeon who completed medical school and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Page is currently a rural surgeon and has taken numerous medical mission trips to South America and the Middle East. He and his wife Joanna live in Texas with their five children. He is the author of Surrendered Sleep: A Biblical Perspective. You can find more information at

In the Midst of Pain and Sorrow

By Connie Hilton Dunn © 2011

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
  ~From a headstone in Ireland

I got the call while I was at Bible study. At first I didn’t answer, but when I saw the flashing envelope on my cell phone, I thought I’d better return the call, just in case. My father suffered from poor health the last few years, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay. The message was from Vicky, a family friend. Dad had suffered a stroke, but refused to go to the hospital. I called back and instructed her to call an ambulance, and then insist he go to the hospital. I assured her I would meet them at the hospital as soon as I could; it was a 45-minute drive. That was Tuesday night. My father passed away the following Thursday morning.
            The grief still causes tears to well up in my eyes at unexpected moments. He died February 17, 2011. Now, months later, I’m wondering how I will survive the holidays. My heart is still numb. I realize celebrations may take on a more somber, subdued tone this year. I’m hoping that while celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth and engaging in the familiar rituals of the holidays, comfort might come to my grieving heart. My prayer is that as I build an altar of memories and commemorate my father’s life that my holidays will be more than tolerable, that in the midst of my pain and sorrow, I will be able to find an inkling of joy in the knowledge that my father is in heaven.
A common name of Jesus often uttered during the holiday season is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). I wonder, “Is God really going to be with me this year?” Of course he is. In the humble beginnings of a manger, Christ took on human flesh. Because of his willingness to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14), I know he can understand my grief and sorrow. The Bible says he wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:34-36). He too felt the pain and separation of death.
My Christmas traditions include buying a new ornament each year. This year I plan on buying a memorial ornament for my dad, to honor him and the impact he had on my life. As I hang it on the tree, I’ll remember he may not be with me physically, but in spirit he lives in my heart, and in heaven he waits for me to join him some day.
Another activity I hope will soften my pain, since I won’t be buying my dad a gift this year, will be to donate to a charitable organization in his name. I haven’t decided yet which one. Perhaps the American Stroke Association or Gideons International. Or maybe I’ll make a contribution to missionaries I know who are working in Japan or Africa. I’m sure my dad would be pleased to know that his legacy will continue in the hearts and lives of others.
One of the things my dad left me was his Bible. That morning after he died, my siblings and I went to his house. It was comforting to see his Bible on his dresser and imagine how his hands turned the pages as he read the words of life. This year I’m going to have my husband read the Christmas story out of Dad’s Bible.
I’m sure there will be moments of sadness and tears during these weeks ahead, but I also know that Emmanuel, God with me, will carry me through as the Great Comforter, the Holy Spirit, comforts me (John 14:15-17). And I rejoice in the knowledge my dad is in heaven, praising God, and he has already received the greatest gift of all—forgiveness of his sins and eternal life. I will choose to rejoice in that gift of eternal life, and in the promise and assurance I will get to see my dad once again. Lord, heal my heartache and comfort me with fond memories.
My favorite Christmas carol is “O come, o come Emmanuel.”
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
This year the words have a deeper meaning. The sadness in my heart reminds me I am the mournful exile here on this earth, awaiting my Lord’s return, to ransom me and take me home. So until that day when I shall see the Son of God appear, and in heaven once again feel the embrace of my earthly father, my heart sings, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Hilton Dunn believes in pursuing life passionately. Her roles include wife, mother, systems specialist, writer, and missions enthusiast. She has a heart for prayer and short term missions trips and has traveled to TanzaniaEast Africa several times.  She and her husband are enjoying their empty nest in Kansas City. If you’d like to read about her Africa adventures check out her blog:

The God of Detours

By Kristi Bothur © 2011

"I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. Luke 1:38

Photo by M. Reed Butterfield
If you are reading this, you are probably in the ranks of those who have experienced a detour in life. At some point, your plans have been derailed – by sickness, loss, financial struggles, relationship issues, whatever – and now you are on a different path than you originally imagined. You may be trying to get back to the road you started on, or you may have found out that one detour led to another, and to another, and now you are so far off your original path that you wonder if you will ever be back to normal.

I wonder if Mary felt like that after hearing the angel's announcement. Her plans for her life were probably quite simple – and yet quite familiar to most of us. Marry a nice man (and she was well on her way with this, since she was already betrothed and planning a wedding). Have a houseful of kids. Settle down in the village where she grew up, surrounded by family and friends. Grow old with her husband, surrounded by children and grandchildren.

Simple. Perfect. Plan A.

But after the angel left, where was she? Pregnant out of wedlock, with village tongues just waiting to wag. A husband-to-be planning to abandon her.

And later – giving birth miles and miles from home. In exile in a different country as they fled the threat of a tyrannical king. Very likely enduring the death of her husband before Jesus began his ministry. Dealing with jealousy among her children. And eventually living out her days far from Nazareth – in Ephesus under the watchful care not of her own children, but of the apostle John.

Complicated. Messy. Plan B.

Okay, she didn't know most of this the moment the angel departed. But she must have had a glimmer that life as she knew it, life as she planned it, would never be the same again. But what was her response? "I am the Lord's servant."

Submission. Acceptance. Trust.

I think of her response whenever I have felt like my plans have been derailed. My plans were simple, similar to Mary's. Marry a nice man, have a houseful of kids by the time I was thirty. I never planned to be single through my twenties, even though I did eventually meet the man of my dreams. I certainly never planned to deal with infertility, or to experience multiple pregnancy losses, or to be diagnosed with a cancer-like tumor.  Those were not my plans. And when my plans were replaced by a different reality, it was hard to understand God's role in my life. My plans had not been evil or selfish. Surely they must have been God's plans, too. Which meant his plans were also derailed, right?

Wrong. If God is sovereign and in control, then can any of His plans be thwarted? Not according to Scripture (Job 42:2). And while it is true that God‘s original creation did not include suffering and sickness and death, and that these things will be wiped away in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:4), in this interim sin-stricken world of trouble and sorrow, God is still in control. Nothing comes our way that He is not aware of and did not allow and cannot redeem for His glory. We may not be able to fathom how the plans of a loving Father can include emotional and physical pain…and yet, this was true for His own Son. And the pain He endured on the cross culminated in the glory of the resurrection and salvation for all who put their trust in Him.

When you look at the nativity scenes this December, imagine all that was going on in the hearts of Mary and Joseph, whose plans had been turned upside down. They could not imagine at the time of Jesus’ birth all that their willing submission to God’s plans, and their trust in His love, would bring about.

Neither can we.

So will we trust anyway? When life takes a detour, will we stick with God and follow him, believing that no matter what our circumstances are, He still loves us and really is working all things together for our good and His glory? Can we have eyes that see beyond this world and believe that on heaven’s side of eternity everything will be clear?

This is my prayer for you this Christmas season – that you will know the “tidings of comfort and joy” not because life is perfect, but because you know Immanuel, who is “God with us” in all of life, even (or especially!) on the detours.

Merry Christmas!

Father, my life is not turning out the way I planned, and it makes me angry, and sad, and scared. Help me to trust you and to move forward as you lead. Help me not to look back in regret for what never was, but to look ahead as I follow the path I am now on and allow you to guide my steps. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of four - one on earth and three in heaven.  She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life.  She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (  You are welcome to contact her at  Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and daughter.

Lost on Lake Palestine

By Connie Hilton Dunn © 2011

There I was—alone in the middle of Lake Palestine. I couldn’t believe my sister Linda had abandoned me. While riding wave runners, we had somehow lost track of each other. I buzzed the perimeter of the lake, enjoying the ripple of the waves, a blue heron soaring overhead. When I spotted a familiar white building, I headed that direction, but as I got closer, I realized this wasn’t the cove where my sister lived. I began to panic. I didn’t have a cell phone, sunscreen, drinking water, or a watch. I’d been on the water at least an hour, and the scorching sun was beginning to burn my arms and legs. I headed toward the center of the lake, thinking this would be a quicker way to survey the shoreline and identify a landmark.
I prayed desperately, “Lord, help me find my sister or her lake house.” I sensed a still, small voice say, Go to the shore. I steered toward the distant shore, and as I drew near, I saw kids splashing on a paddle boat. “Do any of you have a cell phone?”
“No,” they answered, staring at my sunburned face. “But our aunt is over there.” They pointed to a nearby dock where I saw several adults lounging. A woman lent me her cell phone, and I dialed my husband’s number. It rang and rang, finally transferring to voicemail. Frustrated, I left a brief message explaining my predicament.
“Do you have any water?” I asked. “I’m so thirsty.”
“Sure,” a man answered. He handed me a bottle of cold water, and I guzzled it down.
 “Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.”
The aunt, on her own wave runner, volunteered to help me find my sister’s lake house. We took off, my wave runner slapping and bouncing in her wake. As I scanned the horizon, I turned to my right and spotted my brother-in-law, Ed.
“Have you had enough fun on the lake today?” he joked.
“Yes!” A deep sigh filled my heart with relief.
The next day, I pondered the lessons I’d learned:
  1. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). My sister and I could have avoided the entire escapade if we had just stayed together.
  2. The ant “has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:7-8). A little forethought would have prepared me with bottled water, sunscreen, and a cell phone before setting out on the wave runner in 100 degree Texas weather.
  3. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5b). Instead of panicking, I could have acted on God’s promise. Even though I felt alone, God was with me.

Many times in life we find ourselves in similar circumstances: scared, unprepared, and confused about the next step. We try to rescue ourselves. Rather than ask God for help, we trust in our own strength, which proves to be frail and weak. Isaiah instructs us, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). When I stopped trying to navigate with my own wisdom and cried out to God with humility and desperation, I was able to hear his still, small voice.
In the midst of my drifting, I should have opened my eyes to see, not the S-U-N, but the S-O-N. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Son of God, instead of the lapping waves of our circumstances, we’ll be like Peter, walking on the water. So if you find yourself drifting today, I encourage you to lift up your eyes and see the Son! He is waiting with his arms wide open.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Hilton Dunn believes in pursuing life passionately. Her roles include wife, mother, systems specialist, writer, and missions enthusiast. She has a heart for prayer and short term missions trips and has traveled to Tanzania, East Africa several times.  She and her husband are enjoying their empty nest in Kansas City. If you’d like to read about her Africa adventures check out her blog:

All Scripture NIV 1984.

Surviving Caregiver Burnout: Sound Steps to Guide You!

Thanks to advancements in medical science, Americans are now living longer than a generation ago. Presently, 36.5 million people or 12 percent of the U.S. population are 65 years of age or older. Within this group, nearly five million are age 85 or older. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 87 million Americans (21 percent) will reach age 65 and beyond.

While extending one's lifespan may be a modern miracle, for millions of Americans, this astounding growth has taken the act of care giving for a loved one from a historically temporary situation, to a new life stage called care giving that can and does now last decades.

Sixty five percent of persons with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance, and it is estimated that 59 to 75 percent of those providing the care are married women working outside of the home. While men do provide assistance, female caregivers spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than males.

With these astounding statistics, it is easy to surmise that care giving is a growing demand and one that requires immediate attention and support.

Care giving is an important and stressful job. Most folks enter into it from an emotionally fragile place where their worst fears can be, and often are, realized. If you are caregiver and want to survive this life stage, you must surrender your uncertainty about what to do and commit yourself to acting on a well thought out plan. Like any successful enterprise, having an understanding about what you are about to enter into will help you accept your new role and give you a roadmap for coping.

Steps for Coping
Unless you become an "accidental caregiver" meaning that something happened suddenly, it's usually a slow process that creeps up on you. The signs are different for each individual, but they are definitely present. I encourage you to be pragmatic. Here are some steps to approach the process.

1) Become an Observer -- You must take yourself to the place of a distant observer, where you can view the situation from an unemotional, well thought-out, objective place. By standing back and removing yourself temporarily from the center of the "storm", you will gain perspective and this will go miles in helping you create a plan.

2) Define Your Roles and Responsibilities -As a caregiver; particularly if you are female, it is natural for you to be tempted to try to do everything for your loved one. Depending on the condition of your loved one's health, you may find yourself having to do many things they previously did for themselves, such as personal grooming, driving to appointments or day-to-day household duties. Responsibilities such as these have the potential to cause undue stress. Even if the person is greatly dependent upon you for their care, you will find that you are better able to maintain your own mental and physical health, and the dignity of the person for whom you are caring, if your roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

3) Practice Open Communication -- This is not the time to be shy about your needs. It is the key to your survival, and you must clarify your role through open communication. Unless your loved one is mentally incapacitated, you must talk about his/her wants and needs, and be sure to make yours clear as well. Discuss today's necessities, but plan for the future. In time, you may find yourself with increased responsibilities such as, medical, home maintenance, legal and financial matters. Make certain that you not only understand what your fiduciary boundaries are, but to whom you can refer to for other important decisions when the time comes.

I cannot stress enough that in order to survive the caregiving process and total burnout; you must set up systems to help you. You do not have to do this alone. Help is available; the time you take to understand where it is and how to access it, will be crucial to your survival.

Surviving Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is a real condition and should not be taken lightly. It is described as "a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned." Burnout can occur for any number of reasons, but usually does because the caregiver has tried to do more than she is able, either physically or financially, (or both). Burnout symptoms include:
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and loved ones. 
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. 
  • A constant feeling of hopelessness or irritability and helplessness. 
  • Changes in weight, sleeplessness coupled with complete emotional and physical exhaustion. 
  • Frequent illness.

How to Avoid Burnout? 
The best way you can avoid caregiver burnout is to create and use a well-planned support system:
  • Set realistic goals and turn to others for relief with certain tasks. 
  • Stay realistic about the illness you are confronting. Your role is not to heal, but to help make life manageable for your loved one. 
  • Set aside time for yourself. This is not a luxury, but a necessity. 
  • Talk to a professional if you feel your life is spinning out of control. You cannot afford not to. 
  • Explore/research respite care services and options. 
  • Educate yourself, take the time to research, and learn. There is a plethora of information available. 
  • Stick to the basics: eat right, exercise and get plenty of rest. Know when it's okay to turn off the phone and be quiet. 
  • Pamper yourself. Take a bath; a long shower; spend time in nature; tap into your own spirituality and ask for help. 
  • Accept your feelings of frustration and anger as normal. 
  • Join a care giving support group. Sharing your feelings with others in your same situation can be extremely helpful. Support groups help you manage stress, locate resources and provide a venue to reduce feelings of frustration and isolation. 
  • Make time for activities you enjoy. 
  • Caregiving is rewarding, but there will be times when you will also feel anger, sadness, frustration and grief. Try not to judge your feelings. They are neither good nor bad, but rather a normal part of being human.
Care giving is hard work, filled with numerous demands. Sadly, many caregivers lose perspective about the importance of their role and feel guilty if they spend time on themselves. You cannot care for another person if you do not care for yourself. You must be kind to yourself and embrace the idea that your role as a caregiver is vital to our society. You are engaged in the ultimate service - giving of yourself to another person. Honor your role and honor yourself.

By Cindy Laverty, founder of The Care Company

Five Caregiving Tips to Help Save Your Sanity!

By Cindy Laverty © 2011

Someone asked me the other day to list five (only five) things that EVERY caregiver should know...five things that would really help them figure things out. It was a big challenge for me because there are hundreds of things someone needs to know. But I wracked my brain for a few days and decided that these were the TOP FIVE!

1. Now don't freak out! You don't have to be a CAREGIVER!
I know that statement makes you really uncomfortable, doesn't it? The truth is that you don't have to be a caregiver. There is no law that says you have to and there is no punishment (except for your guilty conscience) if you decide not to. This statement should be freeing for you, because it means you have a choice and choice means that we are then guided by our ATTITUDE. When you change your attitude from one of obligation and servitude, then you are free from all of the baggage that accompanies the "I have to" attitude. You get to decide what the caregiving journey looks like for you and your loved one. Once we accept that "have to" is not part of the scenario, then we bring a more positive energy to the whole process. No one likes to be told, "You have to do this or you have to do that." The same is true with caregiving. What you do have to do is DECIDE that you will assume the role, but also that you will be very clear about what you can do; what you can't do; what you will do and what you won't do. It will take some getting used to, but if you change your attitude and realize that you indeed have a choice, the journey will be better for you and the person for whom you are caring.

2. Caregiving needs to be set up like a BUSINESS and you are the CEO of the business.
Think about this for a minute. There are legal, financial, medical and physical components that accompany caregiving and sometimes there are even employees who need managing, especially if you hire outside caregivers to assist you. There is also the day-to-day scheduling combined with the emotional feelings. All these moving parts need to be managed. Set up caregiving like you would a business from the very beginning and your life will be infinitely easier. Most caregivers have not done this step and this is when the financial issues become overwhelming. You really need to consider putting systems and procedures in place that everyone can easily follow. Having a roadmap for the business of caregiving is extremely beneficial.

3. You cannot do caregiving ALONE!
You absolutely must have a support team in place and this support team involves your family, your friends, and anyone who can help you get this job done. Many caregivers are afraid to ask for help. For some reason they think they should be able to do this by themselves. They quickly learn, however, that it takes more than one person to care for an aging loved one.

4. Stop trying to FIX what is wrong and embrace the role of ADVOCATE!

This one tip will change the way you view your caregiving responsibilities. You can't fix the aging process and that's what you are faced with. You can, however, become an advocate and you can never underestimate the importance of advocating on behalf of someone who cannot advocate on his/her own behalf. When you are trying to fix everything you set yourself up for disappointment. Be realistic about what you can do and stop trying to fix the impossible. Instead, become a strong advocate.

5. You Matter! Learn to embrace and practice SELF CARE each and every day.
Caregiving takes a physical, emotional and mental toll on our lives and you must learn to be clear about your personal needs and put yourself at the top of the pyramid. You've read all the articles about caregiver burnout. Perhaps you've heeded them, but most caregivers think it will never happen to them. When it does, the rug is really pulled out from under you. Caregiving is a beautiful gift to another person, but you are not meant to lose your life while doing it. Become proactive today!

Thanksgiving in Early America

by Elaine Marie Cooper

When we sit down at our Thanksgiving meal this month, we’ll be recreating a celebration that is as old as our country: sharing food with loved ones while thanking the God Who has provided the abundance.

While we understand that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated here by the Mayflower survivors along with the Indians that had helped them, the first official proclamation that was decreed to celebrate such a holiday was in 1777. It was a recommendation to the thirteen states by the Continental Congress to set aside December 18th that year as a “solemn thanksgiving” to celebrate the first major victory for the Continental troops in the American Revolution: the Battle of Saratoga.

The Battle of Saratoga has significant interest for my own family since one of my ancestors was a soldier there. But he was not on the American side—he was a British Redcoat. After surrendering to the Americans, he escaped the line of prisoners and somehow made his way to Massachusetts and into the life and heart of my fourth great-grandmother. *SIGH* L’amour!

This family story was the inspiration for my Deer Run Saga that begins in 1777 with The Road to Deer Run. There is an elaborate Thanksgiving meal scene in this novel as well as in the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run.

Some may wonder why such detail was afforded this holiday in my novels set in Massachusetts, while Christmas is barely mentioned. The reason is simple: Thanksgiving was the major holiday in the northern colonies, with Christmas considered nothing more special than a workday. According to Jack Larkin in his book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, “The Puritan founders of New England and the Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania had deliberately abolished (holidays) as unscriptural.”

But Thanksgiving was begun as a way to give thanks to God for His provision. It usually began with attending church services in the morning, followed by an elaborate feast in the afternoon. The food for this meal was prepared for weeks in advance.

Since the individual state governors chose their own date to celebrate the holiday, it was theoretically possible for some family members—if they lived in close proximity—to celebrate multiple Thanksgiving meals with family and friends across state borders. The dates chosen could be anywhere from October to December, according to Dennis Picard, Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Chicken was most commonly served, said Picard, as it was readily available in the barnyard. And the oldest woman in the home had the honor of slicing the fowl for dinner.

Pies were made well in advance of the holiday and stored and became frozen in dresser drawers in unheated rooms.

“I like the idea of pulling out a dresser drawer for, say, a clean pair of socks, and finding mince pies,” said Picard, tongue in cheek.


Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now one year old. The Promise of Deer Run is dedicated to the triplets and to veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door ( and a blog on Christian living called Reflections In Hindsight ( She is the author of The Road to Deer Run and the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run. Prior to becoming an author, Elaine worked as a registered nurse.

Accepting Infertility

By Danielle Ripley-Burgess © 2011

I woke up, somewhat foggy, to my parents gazing over me in my hospital bed. The good news: no cancer discovered on this second surgery. The bad news: the surgery itself, performed to save my hormone function before pelvic radiation, made me medically sterile.

My mom looked like a ghost had walked by. My dad looked guilty. The doctor insisted my surgery meant life or death; she focused on my life. My ability to create future lives was null. My parents’ eyes swelled with tears, but my 17-year-old self perked up with gratitude to be alive. Parenthood was so far off my radar.

I lived with this perspective for many, many years. Even when I married, my husband accepted infertility. We viewed our situation as special and unique. I thanked God for a great testimony and story of survival. We told others of our plans to adopt; we “high-fived” over the fact I’d never be pregnant. It was our special treat, until it started to hit me one day.

Handling Criticism

by Greg Baker © 2010

I pastor a church. I have my own opinions about God, religion, society, heaven, hell, salvation, government, and right and wrong. My views are strictly biblical, but that won't stop other Christians and Bible believers from criticizing my stand and beliefs let alone the non-believers.

If you take a stand on anything, you will be criticized for it. But there are a variety of things you need to be aware of in regards to criticism. Understanding the nature of criticism will help you handle it without being overly defensive.


Critics are often very insecure about something in their life. Who knows what it may be, but secure people aren't bothered by other people's opinion. They don't feel the need to attack someone else. I'm a Christian, and I'm not bothered when someone else has a different opinion on God. I'm very, very secure in my beliefs. I've noticed, however, that critical people are often not secure in some of theirs.

They attack other positions because that is easier to do than take a long hard look at their own. Critics will often cut others down to make themselves taller.

You can't argue with a critic and win. It doesn't matter if you have a stronger argument, position, or logic. Arguing with a critic is always a losing battle. It'll only frustrate you.

Recently, I had someone challenge me on something I wrote. That's fine. I sent a clarification back and received a very long argument in reply. After reading the first line and realizing what was happening, I deleted the letter. I knew that reading it would only frustrate me more, and it was clear that I wasn't going to change his mind either. To save myself frustration, I simply deleted it.

The trash can is your best friend when it comes to criticism. Hit that delete key. Don't bother with a response.


Concern is from someone who cares and has the power, position, and authority to make a difference. When a parent tells a child to do something different, that is concern and love. When a boss corrects the way you do something that is his right. He is concerned for his business.

Criticism is from someone who has neither the power to change anything, the authority to try, nor the position to say anything. And yet they still do. A critic is more interested in tearing down what others build than in building something of their own.

I'm way to busy building a Church for God to worry about what other Churches are doing. I'm not responsible for other pastors, other ministries, and other churches. So I don't bother looking into it. I focus on what God has given me and what I know I ought to be doing. So should you.

Isn't it amazing how critical the crowd is of a referee? The crowd can't do a single thing to fix, to correct, or to change the call that a referee makes. Referees are rarely critical of other referees because they understand the position and the difficulties that come with it. Do you ever see a referee booing a ticket holder? Someone who is doing something doesn't have time for someone who is merely watching and criticizing.

It amazes me how critical we are of the President. No matter if he is a democrat or a republican, we all know better, don't we? Do I agree with him all the time? Of course not! But I am not in a position to be constructively critical. I'll express my opinion in the voting box.

A critic is often envious of others. Many times that envy reveals itself in the form of criticism.


The critic will consume your heart and mind if you let him. Criticism has the potential to hurt and hurt deeply. Remember, the critic isn't really trying to help. He is trying to tear down what others build instead of building something themselves.

This is what irks me about politics, to be critical myself here. They are very good at pointing out where the ideas and policies of their opponents are doomed to fail, but they offer no solution of their own.

Don't joust with a critic. Just focus on where you can make things better. Realize that not everyone will agree with you. In fact, in my case, I would be extremely puzzled if everyone agreed with me all the time. I'd think someone had thrust me into some sort of bizarre virtual reality.

There are people who are counting on me to help build their lives for the better. So why in the name of all things good would I give my attention to a critic whose only thoughts are to tear down and destroy?

I disagree with a lot of preachers and ministries. But for the most part, we are too busy loving and helping people to have time attacking each other. That's good. That's the way it should be.

Have you been criticized? Trash it in the mental trashcan of your mind and go on and build something.

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