Embracing the Most Important Relationship

Jeremiah 29 11If we believe wholeheartedly that God is personally involved in our life, we would expect that He has something specific in mind for us to do while we’re here on earth.

In their book, Being Christian, Exploring Where You, God, and Life Connect, authors Stephen Arterburn and John Shore address four things every Christian will have at some point in life: answers, guidance, confirmation, and inspiration.  They address a question that has laid heavy on the heart of many believers: Does God Have a Plan for Me?

He certainly does.  God’s plan is for you to accept the fact that He loves you, has always loved you, and will always love you.  God’s plan for you is to trust in the truth of who He is, and in what He has done for you.  It’s for you to open yourself up to the wondrous powers of the Holy Spirit within you.

One of Satan’s most insidious strategies to attack and influence the children of God has been to keep them too involved with challenging relationships to care about a relationship with the One who cares the most—Jesus Christ.

Clearly, God wants us to be in loving relationships, starting with Himself.  Yet relationships are being destroyed, hearts broken, and families fractured as good Christian men and women forget what God has said about the most important priorities in life—to love Him first and to love our neighbors. This is the very essence of the gospel message.

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40.

Step One: Love the Lord Your God

It starts by acknowledging Jesus Christ as our Savior—our Lord.

Ryan Northcutt is the pastor of a small (but rapidly growing) community church in Haltom City, Texas.  Pastor Ryan talked passionately about a personal God who understands what it’s like to live in this world—to be involved with people, challenges, troubles, and trials. He said:

We can’t do it on our own.  When we trust in ourselves it’s too hard.  If we rely on only ourselves we will be left wanting.  When we are separated from God we feel it—we may not know what is missing from our life—but we know something is. When that something becomes a relationship with the Lord, it’s impossible to live the same way.  When our relationship with the Lord grows—we grow.

It’s not about what we have to do to get to God, for by grace we are all saved. It’s about what Jesus did for us to get to us.


Adapted from Setting Boundaries with Difficult People, Six Steps to SANITY for Challenging Relationships  by Allison Bottke © 2011. Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Visit the Setting Boundaries Books website today for more information. 

Reorganizing Our Relationships

Setting Boundaries with FoodCould it be that excess weight is only a symptom, the result of our soul’s internal struggle to relinquish control, find love, and experience peace?

My heart stuck in my throat as I looked down at my medical chart. Tears stung my eyes as I tried to comprehend what the doctor had written before excusing himself to take an emergency phone call, leaving my opened chart on the desk.

Morbidly obese? How dare he!  My initial anger gave way to a deep, incomprehensible pain as the truth of his words sunk in. Yes, sometimes truth is painful.

Sitting in my car sobbing, I prayed to God for this dance of dysfunction to end.

We’ve got to change the way we think about dieting and break the destructive habit before it breaks us. What we need is a way to find balance and sanity that will bring long-term peace and hope to our lives—not just short term weight loss to our bodies. What we need is the strength and determination to stand up and say, “I’m tired of focusing on food and on my weight—this insanity has to stop—enough is enough!”

For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing (Luke 12:23).

Dieting and setting boundaries with food are two entirely different things. While a focus on the first may or may not yield weight loss, I can almost assure you that a concerted effort to address the second will. Returning food to its rightful place in life can yield amazing results on any number of issues, not the least being our weight.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Oswald Chambers said, “Christianity is not walking in the light of our convictions but walking in the light of the Lord, a very different thing. Convictions are necessary, but only as stepping stones to all that God wants us to be.” [1]

God wants us to be more than what we eat—or weigh.


Adapted from Setting Boundaries with Food, Six Steps to Lose Weight, Gain Freedom, and Take Back Your Life by Allison Bottke © 2008. Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Visit the Setting Boundaries Books website today for more information. 

[1] The Quotable Oswald Chambers, Compiled and Edited by David McCasland (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2008), 59.


Setting Boundaries With Food

A. Bottke BEFORE WLSA. Bottke AFTER Pic #1For years my life was filled with a never-ending stream of drama, chaos, and crisis that revolved around the life of my drug-addicted son—it was absolute insanity—and it was not how God intended for me (or any parent) to live.

Following the Six Steps to SANITY helped me realize the futility of harboring negative feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, fear, and inadequacy and develop new strengths to begin living a life of freedom from the bondage of the poor choices my son was making—and learn to make better choices myself.

While there are countless reasons why so many people struggle with their weight there is one common denominator that cannot be denied—food—too much, too little, the wrong kind, at the wrong times, eaten for the wrong reasons, and often an inability to set healthy boundaries with it.

I’m going to challenge you to give up destructive dieting and unhealthy eating patterns for the last time—to say good-bye to the vicious cycle that has held you prisoner in your own body for years—perhaps decades.

Many of us have confused the empty space in our stomach with the one in our heart, stuffing one while ignoring the other.

As a believer, I prayed long and hard about my decision to have gastric bypass weight loss surgery after being declared “morbidly obese”.

Now, instead of trying to control my food with the latest fad diet or weight loss trend, I rely on the Six Steps to SANITY to help me focus on the spiritual food that has sustained me over the years as I’ve learned more about the role healthy boundaries and balance plays in virtually every aspect of life.

The Six Steps to SANITY can bring hope and healing to hurting hearts. During the course of writing—and living—the Setting Boundaries™ books, I’ve found strength I never knew I had—you can find this strength as well.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).


Adapted from Setting Boundaries with Food, Six Steps to Lose Weight, Gain Freedom, and Take Back Your Life by Allison Bottke © 2008. Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Visit the Setting Boundaries Books website today for more information. 

New Material NOW AVAILABLE for Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

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New Material NOW AVAILABLE for Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

I know many of you can relate to walking in the valleys of trial, tribulation, and testing this past year. I know it’s been a hard year for many of us as I read your e-mail, and pray with and for you as you struggle to set healthy boundaries and find SANITY in sometimes out-of-control insane situations.

As you prepare for the new year it is my prayer for you to know and believe that SANITY is possible! I’m excited to share that resources are now available for you to gather a small group of people, like you, who have challenging relationships with adult children. People just like you who are ready to stop the insanity and start the journey to SANITY in the new year. Don’t wait for another year to go by.

The 6-Steps to SANITY and 12-weeks to Freedom program will help you learn if you are an enabler in your adult child’s life—and if so—how to stop; what steps to SANITY you can take; how to yield it all to God and how to develop an action plan allowing God to make a way where there seems to be no way. This 12-week curriculum is now available in a vibrant full-color, spiral bound Study Guide, designed as a companion to the best selling book: Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents. Used in conjunction with the book, the SANITY Support Study Guide can be followed in any number of settings, including home, church, and business environments.

**PLUS** We now have a separate Leader Guide that contains step-by-step information to plan, organize and facilitate the 6-Steps to SANITY and 12-weeks to Freedom program in your local community or church, even if you’ve never led a group before. Group facilitators will also need a copy of the Study Guide and book, as the Leader Guide is intended as a companion to the 12-week program.

Visit our website storefront for more information on acquiring these life-changing resources. Tell a friend in need, help change a life.

The 6-Steps to SANITY Prescription!

Buffering Your Suffering with Boundaries Around Your Heart

I felt like one of those aluminum Christmas trees folks had when I was a kid, the kind with the rotating color wheel that sat on the floor underneath it, projecting an array of colors on the tree’s metallic branches. It was quite a spectacle to see the tree change before your very eyes, going from red to blue to green, sometimes the tree itself was on a rotating stand, further enhancing the experience.


If emotions were colors, I reflected all of them sitting in the booth at Applebee’s this past Tuesday, during that lull in time before the dinner crowd arrives. I was feeling angry, fearful, resentful, and insecure, but mostly I was feeling an incomprehensible sense of confusion and pain. “What more does God want from me?” I cried.


This was supposed to be a day of closure and rebirth. A day when legal decisions would be made that would allow me to bury the remnants of poor choices, past mistakes, and painful experiences and begin living once again. This was supposed to be a day of resolution and relief—or so I had hoped and prayed. After years of being consumed with loss, grief and increasing feelings of fear and desperation, years when my physical health suffered, my financial health suffered, and yes, I’m sorry to say times when my spiritual health suffered, I had allowed myself to believe that this would be the day when this long season would at last come to an end.


“When does it stop?” The tears flowed. “What am I supposed to learn that I’m not learning? I don’t think I can take this suffering anymore. Maybe I’m not supposed to be a writer, maybe it’s time to throw in the towel, maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. Maybe it’s not God’s plan or purpose for me to write about setting healthy boundaries, maybe I’ve got it all wrong…everything shouldn’t be this hard.” Clearly, I was not coping very well, and I certainly wasn’t filtering my challenging circumstances through the lens of the 6-Steps to SANITY…I wasn’t walking my talk.


My friend and moral support listened patiently; I could tell her heart was aching for me as she watched my hit-the-wall melt-down. Not quite sure what to do about the emotional lady in the booth by the window, our server brought extra mozzarella cheese sticks and maintained a wide berth.


“You’ve got to claim victory, Allison!” My friend said. “You’ve got to continue praising God through this. No matter what.”


It’s the “no matter what” seasons that get us, isn’t it?


I went home Tuesday night and cried myself to sleep. Wednesday morning my eyes were like two slits in a puff pastry face. I read my Bible, the Streams in the Desert devotional for the day, and Our Daily Bread. I wrote in my OnCall Prayer Journal, and I prayed and prayed some more. I spent the day talking to God. Like many of us, I’m no stranger to intense trial and tribulation. However, I’ve seen God’s amazing grace, mercy and love in so many miraculous situations and circumstances—I never doubt His presence.


Yet it suddenly dawned on me that’s exactly what I was doing in Applebee’s on Tuesday as I whined, cried, and babbled about my situation and circumstances. How pathetic—how unproductive—how human. Things didn’t go as I had hoped they would, but who am I to place a statute of limitations on trial and tribulation? God has a plan, and I’m not God (a fact He frequently has to remind me of.)


Life really is all about setting healthy boundaries, every day in every way. Not just with our adult children, difficult people, or even with food or time. Sometimes we need to set a healthy boundary around our heart that keeps out our own negative thoughts, feelings and fears. Proverbs 5:23 teaches us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I can’t control all the drama, chaos, crisis, or circumstances of life, but I can control how I respond to them.


And so I dusted myself off and began thanking and praising God.


I thanked Him for the people, places, things, circumstances, and situations that molded together are making me the person He wants me to be. I thanked Him for the gift of His son. I thanked Him for the wisdom of His Word. I thanked Him in advance for giving me the strength to continue enduring this season and for the wisdom and discernment to understand His plan and purpose for my life.


And I began claiming victory!


Trusting God is a choice we make, and I’ve chosen to trust Him. I’ve chosen to be “All In” with God, and that means even during the times when I may feel left out.


Faith and Endurance – James 1:1-26 (NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.


If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.


Believers who are[b] poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.


12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,[c] and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.


16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[d] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[e] 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.[f]



Allison’s low-sugar birthday pie made by Sharon Hill for surprise birthday dinner 7/8/12

Today is my birthday. As I began this day reading God’s Word, as well as several encouraging devotional messages, I reached a SANITY epiphany.

But first, allow me to share the July 8 devotional from Streams in the Desert written by L.B. Cowman.


There is a fable about the way birds first got their wings. The story goes that initially they were made without them. Then God made the wings, set them down before the wingless birds, and said to them, “Take up these burdens and carry them.”

The birds had sweet voices for singing, and lovely feathers that glistened in the sunshine, but they could not soar in the air. When asked to pick up the burdens that lay at their feet, they hesitated at first. Yet still they obeyed, picked up the wings with their beaks, and set them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a short time the load seemed heavy and difficult to bear, but soon, as they continued to carry the burden and to fold the wings over their hearts, the wings grew attached to their little bodies. They quickly discovered how to use them and were lifted by the wings high into the air. The weights had become wings.

This is a parable for us. We are the wingless birds, and our duties and tasks are the wings God uses to lift us up and carry us heavenward. We look at our burdens and heavy loads, and try to run from them, but if we will carry them and tie them to our hearts, they will become wings. And on them we can then rise and soar toward God.

There is no burden so heavy that when lifted cheerfully with love in our hearts will not become a blessing to us. God intends for our tasks to be our helpers; to refuse to bend our shoulders to carry a load is to miss a new opportunity for growth. ~ J.R. Miller

No matter how overwhelming, any burden God has lovingly placed with His own hands on our shoulders is a blessing. ~ Frederick William Faber


On this the first day of my 57th year of life…

I am publicly declaring that while I know setting healthy boundaries and finding SANITY is possible, I’ve allowed the burdens I’ve been carrying the past few years, and the trials and tribulations I’ve been experiencing, to overwhelm me, keeping me earthbound– when I know in my heart that God has plans for me to soar.

It’s my choice to look at these burdens as blessings, and to boldly declare that no matter what happens on this difficult journey I’m traveling, God is by my side and preparing me for whatever tasks are ahead. Today I am claiming Scripture from the Book of Isaiah for all of us who have been sidetracked and temporarily grounded as we have allowed the challenges of life (and the challenging people in our lives,) to keep us from flying.

God’s Word tells us that He will not grow tired or weary in always being here for us, and that none of us can fathom His understanding of what is going on in our lives. Do you believe that? I do. And it’s time I started living as though I believe it. I believe what Scripture teaches:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV).

And so fellow SANITY support readers, please join me in looking at the burdens we carry as blessings from the Lord Almighty, let’s vow to reattach our wings and adjust to the added weight so that we can fly higher than we could ever have imagined.

I know beyond any doubt that SANITY is possible and I’m going to find it. I’m going to take back my life and live as God intends me to live. Would anyone care to join me?

It’s a new day, a new year and a new opportunity to cling to the promises of God, and that, my friend, is the best birthday gift a person can ever receive.