Stop Hoarding Your Hurts – Set Healthy Boundaries with Negative Thoughts – Foreword by Bonnie Keen

 #7 Coming Spring 2017

Although I’m frequently referred to as a “boundary expert,” the truth is I’m the most boundary-challenged person I know. They say to “write what you know,” and I’ve followed that adage since book one in this series; Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children.

As someone who has experienced extreme boundary violations in life, this current topic is especially close to my heart—and to my senses—as negative thoughts and painful memories can sometimes appear without warning. It takes a concerted effort not to hoard my hurts at times, and I’m not always successful.

Can you relate?

[Read more…]

When a “First Book” is Born – Rejoicing in Labor and Delivery!


Are you a published author who knows the feeling of holding the first copy of your newest book?

I remember the first time I held my first published book in my hands. It was in February of 2001. “God Allows U-Turns – True Stories of Hope and Healing” arrived in a simple padded envelope from my publisher, along with a lovely “congratulations” letter from Tim Martins, the new President and CEO of Barbour Publishing, and Greg Buick, the also new Vice President of Publishing for Promise Press–the imprint under which the God Allows U-Turns compilation series was being published.

That debut book went on to become a series of 13 books that built the foundation of my writing and publishing career. A career that has introduced me to countless industry professionals and blessed me with long-time friendships with some of the most amazing authors of our time.

Yet I can still recall that “first book” as though it was yesterday. Can you relate to that feeling?

Without doubt, it’s a magical time…holding your first “book baby” in your hands.

Fast forward 15 years and 31 books later, and it’s still a special moment when that first “author copy” arrives. It’s a feeling unlike any other, filled with joyful emotions of excitement and wonder and equal parts of anxiety and fear…”What if no one reads it, or even buys it?” Or the worst fear, “What if they don’t like it?”

As a writer, I get that trepidation—and I pray it never goes away. It shows you still care.

In my alternate role as a developmental editor, I’ve experienced the blessing of watching many first-time  authors give birth to their “book babies,” and it’s a joy unlike any other. As of today, I’m in the final countdown with a first-time author who will be launching a brand-new  website next week—in association with a pre-release book campaign in preparation of her September 6 “delivery date.” She is pregnant with passion, purpose, and yes…a little bit of panic as she enters this home stretch.

If you know the feeling of giving birth to a book—be it your first or your latest—will you please share your experience, photos, and words of encouragement on my Facebook Page with Dr. Victoria Sarvadi, as she prepares for the release of her debut book? Let’s rally around this courageous woman whose first book is a powerful memoir that is going to grab you from page one and hang on to you until the end. Stay tuned to updates, announcements, and some exciting FLASH GIVE-AWAYS.

Allison Bottke and Victoria Sarvadi, Fall 2014

Join the conversation and the countdown here…




NEW! Audio Book for Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children


Listen (FREE!) to Carol Kent’s powerful Foreword from Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children as narrated by Margaret Strom.



Setting Boundaries with Painful Memories – Stop Hoarding Your Hurts – Reader Feedback Questionnaire

Hoarding Junk in Head

Why Does Someone Live Like This?


I had just finished watching a movie on television and randomly clicked through the channels to see if anything else caught my eye. When I saw a woman teetering precariously atop a huge mound of junk, I stopped.

She was nicely dressed and appeared to be in her forties. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. The narrator said the woman worked part-time as a clerk for a local hardware store. As I watched her awkwardly navigate the space, I was stunned to hear the narrator say this was “Carla’s” bedroom.

Upon closer inspection, you could see piles of clothes, but they were strewn haphazardly among boxes, stacks of newspapers, magazines, and books. There was no visible furniture other than a broken lampshade lying on its side atop a mishmash pile of junk. Plastic trash bags filled with God knows what, dotted the space. Most disconcerting was the trash; food wrappers, pizza boxes, soft drink cans, yogurt containers, and obvious garbage contributing to the landscape.

Well over four feet of refuse and personal belongings covered the entire floor.

The camera followed Carla as she proceeded to what looked to be a walkway, where the tower of trash was somewhat less dense but nonetheless, still difficult for her to traverse. As Carla tried to get a foothold, she would often slip and fall into the rubble. Eventually, she reached a place where a slight clearing was carved out of the chaos, revealing what appeared to be a large circular micro-fiber dog bed.

“This is where I sleep.” She said quietly.

I stared in horror as the camera zoomed in on a visibly active roach population moving freely amidst the debris surrounding her “bed.” My initial horror was superseded by a scurrying pair of rodents vying nearby for their own turf.

Suddenly, I felt like a gawker driving by a horrendous accident—torn between the knowledge I should keep moving, but compelled to stare.

[Read more…]

The Most Debilitating Excuse

When we make the decision to resign from whatever role we’re playing in our difficult person’s drama, the storyline can turn quickly to melodrama. When we decide to set boundaries and find balance, the excuses for why we shouldn’t can pop up like weeds in a garden.

ICant My brother made some bad spending choices this past month, but he’s promised to do better, I’m just going to help him out a little one more time…

My husband had a really bad childhood and that’s why he …

I told my neighbor she can’t drop by every day to visit, but I feel bad when she …

My dad has had a rough year, he didn’t mean to hit my mom, it was an accident…

Mom never had much when she was a kid, I can’t fault her for wanting a few nice things, she doesn’t mean to overspend…

My boss is under a lot of stress, she doesn’t mean to yell…

Can you think of any excuses that frequently come into play when it comes to your relationships with the difficult people in your life?

There are so many different excuses for why we live in bondage to poor choices, difficult people, and challenging situations and circumstances. Yet as different as the excuses are, many begin with the same two words—two words we need to remove from our vocabulary—“I can’t.”



Excerpt from Setting Boundaries with Difficult People, (c) 2011, Harvest House, Eugene, OregonSetting Boundaries with Difficult People


The Never-Ending Quest

Setting healthy limits and managing conflicting emotions is a never-ending quesWeightBaggaget for women, no matter how old we are. However, this quest can be especially challenging for teens who are still developing in many ways. You’re trying on different personas in a quest to find your identity, and combined with the hormonal changes of puberty (what a yucky word, but there’s really nothing else to explain this equally yucky time) followed by the turbulence of adolescence; it’s easy to become confused, frustrated, and simply lost. The result is that it becomes easier to make not-so-smart choices or to simply passively go where you really don’t want to go.

The weight from the baggage of bad choices adds up quickly. The more baggage you carry throughout the years, the harder it becomes to unpack. If you’re not careful, your mind and heart can begin to look like the inside of a house on a TV episode of “Hoarders,” cluttered, desperate, and dangerous to navigate. The only way to keep from getting buried under a mess of emotions and experiences is to learn the critical importance that boundaries have in your life, and the valuable skill of how to make smart choices based on rational thinking and not just on emotional feeling.

Teens are perfectly capable of making good decisions when their minds are calm, but the part of the brain that helps you manage emotions is still developing, so you’ll naturally have a harder time calming your emotions down, and that’s when bad judgment often triumphs over good judgment.

It’s good to have emotions—it’s good to be able to feel things deeply and passionately.

However, the trouble comes when we lack self-control and place our feelings and emotions above our safety, or above the safety of someone else.


Excerpt from A Young Woman’s Guide to Setting Boundaries, (c) 2014, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon  Young Woman's Guide to SB

Emotions Keep Us Alive

Emotions are powerful signals. When we’re trying to understand something or make a decision, our emotions can help us determine whether our conclusions are valid. For example, when we think about something that contradicts our values, our emotions will tell us it is bad. When we think about something that could hurt us, our emotions will tell us it isn’t a good idea. Simply imagining what might happen triggers emotions that can help us make better decisions.

At least that’s the way it is supposed to work.EmotionsAlive

This speaks directly to the universal law of cause and effect—for every action there is a reaction or response. The energy of our intentions flows outward, affecting many other people. Therefore we need to speak, think, and behave with great thoughtfulness and compassion. We need to say what we mean and mean what we say with firmness and love.

When emotions are used as social signals, they help people decide how to behave toward each other. This is generally very useful. If someone is looking angry, approaching him for a favor might not be a good idea. If he is looking afraid, perhaps he needs help. We generally wear our hearts on our sleeves. Our inner emotions are often displayed on our outer bodies. Our faces, in particular, have around 90 muscles, 30 of which have the sole purpose of signaling emotions to other people, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy.

Viewing our emotions as signals from God can be a powerful tool in helping us to understand what is going on inside of us.

In essence, emotions keep us alive. That doesn’t mean we’re alive because we have emotions. We’re alive because God created us. God is the author of life and the Creator of our emotions. We are born with God-given emotional needs for love, significance, and security, and God can help us understand and calm our emotions. The Bible says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (   Jeremiah 1:5).

Setting Boundaries for Women (02

Excerpt from Setting Boundaries for Women, (c) 2013, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon

What Are We Feeding?

With so much attention being focused on what foods to eat or not eat, or by ignoring nutrition needs entirely, the real bottom line is that many of us have stopped paying attention to why we are even eating in the first place.

Are we really hungry?

Do our bodies actually need fuel, or are we feeding something else entirely?BLOG72915

The truth is, many of us have never learned how to separate food from feelings. Instead of managing our emotions, needs, and the internal frustrations related to growth and change, we’ve fallen into harmful habits of clinging to food or depriving ourselves from it. We habitually overeat and under eat, habitually watch the numbers on our scale increase and/or decrease, and habitually start and stop one destructive diet after another. When it comes to eating, we’ve developed many unhealthy and even dangerous habits.

Intended by God to nourish our physical body, food now plays numerous roles in our life, and unfortunately not all of them are healthy. Many of us have spent a lifetime trying to control the food we eat—or don’t eat—and “dieting” isn’t something we occasionally do—it’s how we’ve learned to live. We are obsessed with and consumed by food.

Food is dependable and available when we need it. Food doesn’t leave, talk back, or have a mind of its own. Food doesn’t judge. Food is our comforter and confidant, demanding nothing of us. Food represents safety, trust, and love. Food can keep us alive or contribute to our demise. Food has become our friend, enemy, lover, and abuser—all rolled into one.

Could there be a more challenging—or dare I say it—dysfunctional relationship?

Imagine all we could do if we returned food to its rightful place in our life. If we could see with absolute clarity how clever Satan has been in his quest to divert us from the truth that our magnificent obsession was never intended to be a relationship with food—but instead with the One who provides it.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.”   John 6:35a

Excerpt from Setting Boundaries with Food, (c) 2008, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon SettingBoundarieswithFood

Ten Steps to Strength for Parents in Pain

Change Can be Freeing….or Frightening

When we make the decision to release our adult children to fend for themselves, it can be both freeing and frightening. For many of us, this sudden freedom to live our own lives will seem like a breath of fresh air. For others, it will bring deep foreboding and fear.

What will we do when we stop living our adult child’s life for him?

We will start living our own.

On my journey to freedom from enabling, I’ve found the following ten steps helpful.

Ten Steps to Strength for Parents in Pain

  1. Memorize the Ten Suggestions for Breaking the Enabling Cycle. You’ll need to remind yourself of these often. Having them just a thought away will be very helpful in time of need.
  2. HealthypersonalgoalMake becoming healthy a personal goal. Decide from this moment forward to become stronger; spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, and physically. If married, make the commitment to strengthen your union. Get counseling or join an appropriate support group if necessary.
  3. Decide to live your life and to stop living the life of your adult child. Find a hobby, join a gym, volunteer, or take a dance class. Do something you’ve always wanted to do.
  4. Take a step back and view the situation with your adult child from an unemotional perspective. Write a bio about your adult child as though you were not his parent, but instead a bystander who has been watching from afar for months—what is your adult child really like?
  5. Develop your action plan. This written document will clearly state the things you plan to change and will include non-negotiable rules and boundaries, firm but reasonable consequences, and timeframes. If married, this should be done as a couple. Remember, you and your spouse must agree on all areas of your plan and be prepared to present a united front at all times. If you’re single, get help from a support group or from an accountability partner.
  6. Prepare yourself for worst-case scenarios. Taking a stand often precipitates a crisis, and the situation may get worse before it gets better. Remember, “from controlled crisis comes positive change.” Think of this like an emergency fire drill, and carefully plan your course of action in as many scenarios as possible; role play with your spouse or a close friend. Stand firm!
  7. Commit to being consistent – DO NOT BACK DOWN, DO NOT NEGOTIATE. It could take days, weeks, months, or years for your adult child to change, if ever. There’s no way to tell. He may never change—but you have. Prepare to wait it out.
  8. Stay connected to your support group and ask for help when needed.
  9. Read the Bible along with a Bible study. Do this with a group if possible.
  10. Pray and always remember to LET GO and LET GOD.

Top-Ten Suggestions for Breaking the Enabling Cycle

Although there is certainly no improving on the original Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20, I have developed a helpful “top ten” list of commandments (or suggestions) when it comes to breaking the enabling cycle.

The Lord gave us Ten Commandments as foundational principles by which to live our lives. Combine them with the ten suggestions below, and you will be well on your way to gaining SANITY in the insane world of enabling.

  1. You shall take care of your own spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, and financial health.
  2. You shall remember to express love and attention to your spouse and other family and friends in addition to the troubled adult child.
  3. You shall not accept excuses.
  4. You shall unSANITY-Tablederstand that a clear definition of right and wrong is imperative for a disciplined society. There is no room for gray. Don’t make excuses for what you believe.
  5. You shall make fact-based judgments without excuse and feel OK doing so.
  6. You shall uphold standards of behavior that protect your morals, values, and integrity.
  7. You shall give unconditional love and support without meddling and without money.
  8. You shall listen to music and read books that will focus your mind on God.
  9. You shall celebrate life and love as often as possible—even in times of trouble.
  10. You shall consistently practice the six steps to SANITY.

YouCanOvercomeIt should come as no surprise that the first commitment we must make is to stop this enabling cycle, whether large or small. It means overcoming the guilt, the fear, the regrets for past mistakes and anything else that has caused us to become enablers of our adult’s child’s destructive lifestyle.

Setting Boundaries with Adult Children

Excerpt from Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, (c) 2008, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon