Blessings Beyond Black Friday

I may have missed some great shopping deals, but I’ve not regretted giving to a multitude of children and their parents and grandparents on the day we know as Black Friday. This gift is a bit unique and fulfilling like no other.

Every Black Friday, my husband and I spend time dressing up as Mr. & Mrs. Santa with our decked out 17 foot Mohawk canoe. Red lights, Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and lots of adrenaline rush energize us as we paddle amongst the 40 or so fancily lighted yachts and cruisers.

Hundreds cheer in rhythm shouting, “San-ta, San-ta, San-ta” and we honk the horn back in the same rhythm – more cheers. Smiles, laughter, cheering, light-hearted fun, energy! We can’t buy these kinds of gifts, or get them on sale, or wrap them under the tree.

Yes, it took a lot of rowing! Yes, “Santa” is working off the cookies he ate. Yes, we were on the alert for the wake of the larger crafts. With all the concentration, balance, and partnership between us as Mr. & Mrs. Rowing Santa, I could hear the distinct young voices eagerly shouting, “SANTA.”

Those individual children yelling above the crowd’s cheers made my heart even warmer as we paddled in the cold waves of the river.

May you be on the look out for ways you can give and receive gifts that can’t be bought on sale or otherwise!








Intentional Thanksgiving – 6 Ways To Lighten The Mood

Being with family and/or extended family can be challenging for some of us due to divorce, death, past trauma, emotional abuse, arrogance, manipulation, negativity or other issues. Our personal history can make us vulnerable to reactions and old relationship wounds. We end up with feelings of dread. Is it any wonder that some of us would rather sit for hours watching football games? Or feed the homeless? Or do the Turkey Run?

Here are six ways you can lighten the mood if you find yourself among those you share both pleasant and unpleasant history with.

  1. Be open and curious about the stories of others. Without awareness, we bring internal stories and judgments into our heads about others and ourselves. We all desire to be heard, understood, and validated. Be willing to hold the viewpoint and experiences of another even though they are different from your own.
  2. Take deep breaths. When someone does or says something that instantly stirs your insides, take 3 deep long breathes – easier said than done. When we get triggered over an embarrassing comment or an unintentional put down, a part of our brain tells us “get out . . . stand your ground . . . I can’t believe they said that . . . don’t let them get by . . . I’m not safe.” Then automatically, our fight, flight, or freeze response takes over. Deep breaths for 90 seconds helps your neuropathways connect with the rational part of your mind. Our rational thoughts about the same offense may sound like, “that was impulsive of them . . . they weren’t aware of how they came across . . . I’ve said impulsive things before . . . this reminds me of . . .my reaction over this indicates I need more closure . . .”
  3. Make a list of things you are thankful for. For healthy relating, think of needing eight positive thoughts in your head to every one negative thought. You’ll be surprised how your mood changes. Your mood affects everyone you relate to.
  4. Be willing to turn negatives into positives. This is a bit challenging when your brain patterns are mostly negative. In general, hang out with positive people. Watch, observe and take in how they think. If you can’t find positive people in your circle of friends, acquaintances, or co-workers, read motivational or inspirational books. Look for ways to compliment another rather than ways to criticize them.
  5. Have an expectation of divine encounters. Be willing to look for God in the midst of relationship. My favorite way of doing this is being with my little grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes. I believe divine encounters happen in the present moment and among relationships with others. Imagine allowing conflict with another to be an invitation from the Holy Spirit to grow and heal. Honor another with the viewpoint of meeting God in the interaction. You open yourself up to transformation!
  6. Be willing to say “no thank you.” In some cases, Thanksgiving gathering can be poisonous to your emotional and mental health. If you struggle with overwhelming anxiety or are fearful of toxic exposure, it’s necessary and appropriate to say “no thank-you.” For some, that football game, or Turkey Run, or feeding the homeless is the safest way to spend the day of Thanks. For lasting help beyond the day, invest in good therapy or participate in a support group such as Celebrate Recovery.

Please leave a comment and let us know how these six ways can lighten the mood for your Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Ask Permission First, To Respectfully Address Conflict


Since conflict is inevitable in close relationships, I’m excited to share more about how to turn conflict into connection. Creating an emotionally safe atmosphere can be a breath of fresh air for relationships that matter most. As we approach Thanksgiving in a few days, I encourage you to review the last two posts we’ve covered so far.

  1. Realize that resolving conflict is healthy and necessary for growth.
  2. Be curious about differences rather than demand, judge, or criticize differences.

Our focus now is how to ask permission first to respectfully address the conflict.

“Is now a good time to talk about ______________________? (what’s bothering me, what I get frustrated about, what I’m most afraid of, what concerns me, how I’m experiencing you) You can fill in the blank.

Notice how the suggested phrases don’t include judgmental statements like “Is now a good time to talk about how careless you are with the budget?” or “Is now a good time to talk about how much your bad habits irritate me?

How you phrase your words can make a HUGE difference in whether or not your spouse becomes reactive. It’s so easy to unintentionally set a fire you never intended to start or get out of hand. Here are three additional things to consider as you ask permission to address a conflict.

  1. Timing is everything. When the atmosphere is pleasant and the mood is open and light-hearted many people think trying to resolve a potentially re-occurring conflict will ruin the mood. And many times it does. That’s why it is so important to ask permission, “Is now a good time to talk about ____________________?” Do avoid asking permission when the mood is escalating. Wait for a peaceful time to address the conflict.
  2. Address one issue at a time please. It’s so easy to bombard our spouse with several issues. It’s sometimes difficult to know what “the issue” is. And for some, it’s very difficult not to weave a thread of connection from one issue to the next, to the next, and so on. Be aware of what the one issue is. Hold back on how other issues are tied to the conflict you want to address. Dealing with one issue may help your spouse feel comfortable enough to say, “Yes, now is a perfect time to talk about _________________.”
  3. Take ownership of your experiences. Own that you become irritated, or angry, or bored, or confused, when your spouse does or doesn’t do what you want or need. They may not have been aware of how you’re experiencing them. Owning your experiences may likely invite empathy from your partner. They won’t know unless you respectfully tell them.

Remember that asking permission to address a single issue with sensitivity to timing, and owning your experience of the other can make it safe for your spouse to say, “yes, now is a good time” or “not right now, but maybe in an hour or so.”

Let me know how these ideas are helpful. If you have ideas to add I’d love to get your comments in the box below. Feel to share this post with others. Next week I’ll address helpful techniques to keep reactivity from escalating.

Resolve Conflict Through Curiosity


Last week we addressed the healthiness and necessity of how to resolve conflict. As we embrace the reality that conflict is inevitable for growth, we now attend to the 2nd of 10 ways to be real in spite of conflict.


  1. Avoid “why” questions. It puts the other person naturally in a mode of defensiveness. When we become defensive, the part of our brain that is on the alert tells us to fight, flee, or freeze. It’s the same part of the brain that doesn’t know the difference between past and present. It only knows danger or safety. “Why” questions give messages to our brains that say, “You’re not safe. If you don’t do something fast, you’ll die. Don’t trust. Run quickly. Fight back, or freeze. What ever you can do, just get ourself outta there!” Of course this is illogical thinking and we’re not even aware of this being conscious thoughts.

The neuropathways connecting the automatic functions of the brain controlling heart-rate and blood pressure are, in that millisecond instant, not connecting with the reasoning gray matter. The area of the brain that takes over is considered the reptilian, primitive part of the brain which includes the brain stem.

We are in essence acting like reptiles when we get reactive! The “why” questions invites reptilian reaction from our partner.

  1. Instead say, “I’m curious about such and such. Would you tell me more?” Be genuinely curious. Realize your perspective is not the only one, nor is it the only right one even though you may think it is.

Human beings are the only “species” whose left hemisphere gray matter activates logical patterned thinking that believes they are absolutely right. For many, the left hemisphere is over-activated to falsely believe in it’s own rightness with the exclusion of greater truth or openness for challenge of false truths. When the left side is not well integrated with the right intuitive side, relationship with another is challenging due to lack of empathy and openness.

Choose an attitude of curiosity to invite healing, connection and openness. Avoid “why” questions that imply criticism and judgment. Be intentional about making a pathway of safety and openness for your loved one!

Next blog will cover # 3 of 10 ways to be real in spite of conflict. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts.


Healthy Relationship Conflict

Part 2 of 11

“10 Ways to be Real in Spite of Conflict”

Realize that resolving relationship conflict is healthy and necessary for growth.

Let’s clarify that. The key word is “resolving conflict” where both parties feel heard, understood, and valued. Resolving relationship conflict does not mean power and control over another. If you’re continually giving in to keep the peace, or if you’re sacrificing your own principles and values, you may be in an unhealthy relationship.

So what’s an unhealthy relationship? I’m glad you asked. Think of healthy or unhealthy as any point on a continuum. Remember geometry class where you learned that a straight horizontal line goes on and on in either direction? That’s what I’m referring to.

In the healthy direction, both parties respect the otherness of the other. They value each other’s opinions. They have positive regard for each other. They are on the same team. They are partners. They are curious about each other’s differences. They hold their differences as opening up their own perspectives. Yeah! Does that sound real or not?

Here’s my definition of an unhealthy relationship.

On the continuum line, you’re heading in the direction of seeing each other as inconsiderate, domineering, selfish, demanding, and disrespectful. In extreme cases the relationship is considered poisonous. One partner may take all the blame while the other soaks up grandiose beliefs about himself/herself. If this is the case for your relationship, these next few blog posts may not work at all other than to align you with awareness that your relationship needs help beyond these ideas. Seek out a licensed professional counselor who specializes in relationships as soon as possible.

For those who are willing to grow together and change the partnership dance of conflict here’s a foundation for your thoughts that will make the other nine steps happen. Realize that your journey and growth as a human being depends on allowing your husband or wife influence you and broaden your perspective.

We all have blind spots in our personalities.

Our spouse is the one who sees the good, bad and ugly of our lives. We can either write them off by disregarding their perspective, or we can find an element of truth and be open to our own need for awareness and growth.

Examples of writing off your spouse may be some of the following:

  1. He’s just depressed and sees everything negative.
  2. She has bipolar disorder and over-reacts anyway.
  3. It’s because of how he grew up that’s skewed his viewpoint of me.
  4. There’s nothing I can do that makes her happy no matter how hard I try.

Do any of these excuses sound familiar? You may be very right in your assessment, yet it may be their issues that God is using in your life to refine and grow you into living your life fully. In other words, your spouse along with their issues may be exactly what you need to grow your character. It may not be possible with anyone other than your own spouse and their issues.

Tune in to the next blog post as we address our 2nd of 10 ways to be real in spite of conflict. Our next post is how to be curious about differences rather than demand, judge, or criticize differences.

I’d love to hear your comments! Post below any other “excuses” out there. Let me know what you think of this post!