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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

The Beginnings of Fruitfulness

The theme of this first issue of Kaleidoscope in 2020 is Foundations, the beginning of time when heaven came to earth in the form of Christ Jesus—Yeshua.

My outreach ministry is all about making meaningful connections with troubled adult children, and in most cases, the only way to build strong bridges and set healthy boundaries in these relationships is to start with a firm foundation and a clear plumb line.

And that firm foundation is to Trust in the Holy Spirit… the “T” Step in SANITY.

Scripture tells us, “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)!

To that end, let’s pray…

God, I desperately want to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. I pray I am courteous, considerate, gentle, and full of compassion with those I meet. I long to express love to others like Jesus loves me. Sadly, I have not always been successful in this endeavor.

I think this stems from my inability to say yes with honest authenticity and no with firmness and love. I often find myself saying and doing things I really don’t want to say or do—simply because I don’t want to rock any boats, hurt anyone’s feelings, or cause anyone problems. I do what I think others expect of me. Because of that, I’ve been carrying around a lot of pent-up frustration, anger, and resentment at the difficult people in my life. However, the reality is that I was one of the most difficult of them all.

No wonder my life wasn’t producing wholesome fruit.

But that is changing, and it started with the conviction You placed on my heart to begin responding differently to people who push my buttons—particularly my adult child. With Your help, guidance, and wisdom, I’m learning I can set healthy boundaries in loving ways that bring glory, honor, and praise to You. Being able to jump off the gerbil wheel of insanity and allow my roots to grow deep into Your Word and will have begun to produce a rich harvest of fruit.

Thank You, Jesus!

Lord, I pray I will always be a doer, not just a hearer of God’s Word.

Remember, SANITY IS possible, and I want to help YOU find it!

God’s Peace,

Allison Bottke

For more information on the 6-Steps to SANITY and on her books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries series, visit Allison’s website at AllisonBottke.com

*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is from the New International Version (NIV).

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

From Perspective to Prayer

Back in January, I selected Perspective as my word-for-the-year. As the founder of a ministry outreach to parents struggling to set healthy boundaries with troubled adult children and the mother of a troubled adult child currently serving time in prison, it can be easy to lose perspective. Easy to lose sight of what—and Who really matters in the big picture of life.

As the New Year approaches, I feel called to shift my focus from Perspective to Prayer.   To pray with intention, purpose, and expectation—for fellow parents, their struggling adult kids, and of course, for my own son.

When our children “officially” become adults, the pendulum of legal responsibility might change, but the responsibility of the heart never does. We love them with every fiber of our being regardless of the choices they make. We ache for their security, and we long for them to find their purpose and appreciate their gifts and blessings. We desperately want them to feel the peace, joy, grace, and love of God.

Our assignment to pray for our adult children has no expiration date. Moms and dads everywhere continue to go to their knees in passionate prayer for their kids regardless of their age or the state of their relationship.

I love my adult son, and I have many joyful memories of our times together. However, I’m one of many parents who have struggled for years with how and when to apply tough love. I’ve tried to fix, rescue, and change my son—to no avail. I’ve watched him hit bottom and bounce more than a few times. I’ve talked, cried, and prayed with him through inch-thick security glass, prison bars, and salty tears. I have felt the bitter sting of guilt, shame, fear, anger, and despair as a parent. In these desperate places, I’ve grown closer to the God who loves me—and my troubled adult child.

It doesn’t take a village to reach God. It takes one heart willing to stop for one minute to pray. One heart that is open to say, “God, please give me direction and peace. Please hear the longing of my soul. And God, please be with my adult child and keep him safe.”

We serve a God whose love, grace, goodness, and miraculous power are only a prayer away.

You may be blessed with a strong and healthy relationship with your adult child, or you might be in pain or quiet desperation. Either way, you can rest assured that God can and will show you His face and His love. We must believe unequivocally that God will hear and respond to our prayers for our children—in His time and according to His purpose.

But how can we ask God to give hope, peace, love, or direction to others when we ourselves are hopeless, restless, guilty, or lost? We can pray effectively for our adult children only when we pray effectively for ourselves. The two go hand in hand. Scripture teaches us that the prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We strengthen the bond of our relationships with our adult children when we come before God with prayerful, humble, repentant, teachable, and righteous hearts.

I invite you to join me in doing that now.

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 NIV).

Father God, thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth. I’m so thankful I can lean on You with all of my heart, mind, and soul—even when I don’t understand.

Thank You for Your still, small voice, which heals my heart and transforms my life.

Jesus, help me to apply the “T” Step of SANITY and TRUST the voice of the Spirit. That will bring me closer to You and help me understand Your will and purpose for my life. May I hear Your voice clearly as I seek the truth, especially regarding my relationship with my troubled adult child. I think my relationship with my son is getting better, but I believe with more intentional prayer and enhanced discernment, it can become great.

God, help me find strength to make wise choices. Convict me of Your will for my life in all things. Give me a discerning mind, a kind heart, and a teachable spirit as I trust in You to tell me the way to walk and then joyfully walk in it. ~ Amen

Allison Bottke is a bestselling inspirational author whose international outreach includes over 34+ published non-fiction and fiction books, including the bestselling, award-winning Setting Boundaries series from Harvest House Publishers. Book one in her current series, Setting Boundaries with your Adult Children, has hit #1 in the Amazon.com “Parenting” category several times and is still being heralded as a landmark resource for parents and grandparents. The long-awaited follow-up to that book, How to Connect with Your Troubled Adult Children released in February of 2019 to critical acclaim. Allison’s weekly Podcast, SANITY Support with Allison Bottke will launch in late 2019. Over 500,000 copies of Allison’s books have been sold. Visit AllisonBottke.com

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Counterfeit Grace, Guilt, and Shame – The Lies Satan Tells

In this month’s issue of Kaleidoscope, we’re looking at lies that cleverly masquerade as truth, lies brought to us by none other than the master of deception—Satan.

As many of you may know, I’ve been writing professionally for decades, primarily in the genre of inspirational non-fiction. What you may not know is that after 34 published books, I’ve found myself gravitating toward a very specific audience—an audience with whom I feel a deep connection. These days, my focus is on ministering to parents of troubled adult children.

Specifically, parents in pain who are caught up in the drama, chaos, and crisis that surrounds the lives of troubled kids. Crossing all socio-economic lines, these are loving, generous, and caring parents who are struggling to effectively help (and not negatively enable) their drug-addicted, emotionally ill, and/or mentally ill adult children. Many of them are grasping at straws, desperate to know which way to turn—yet fearful of the truth and the consequences. Many lack the resources (financial and emotional) or the knowledge to know what to do. Sadly, many are not only in denial about just how damaged their kids are but about the part they play in the relationship dynamic.

In short, many of these parents are running on what I call the vicious gerbil-wheel of insanity—repeating the same behavior over and over but expecting different results.

This cycle of dysfunction and denial is one of Satan’s most effective tactics to keep us in bondage.

What is a Troubled Adult Child?

We aren’t just talking about out-of-control, rebellious kids. The issue is no longer a strong-willed, button-pushing child who wants to see how far he or she can go. The truth is, many of the adult children we are desperately trying to “help” are suffering from substance abuse disorders and/or mental and emotional illnesses—serious problems that often go undiagnosed and untreated, or because of the stigma still attached to these labels are frequently ignored.

Our challenging adult children have become troubled adult children, and they are fighting addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorders, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and schizophrenia, to name a few. Many have been in and out of jail or prison more than once, and the ramifications of both incarceration and a criminal record have severely impacted their ability to reintegrate into society. Let’s not forget those adult children who have serious anger and denial issues, some of whom are antisocial to a psychotic and dangerous degree. Angry, bitter, and aimless, many of our adult children cannot hold jobs, and quite often their financial struggles lead to disastrous choices.

Others have been so damaged by life that they want only to end theirs. In desperation and despair, some have frequently threatened and even attempted suicide; sadly, many have succeeded.

Drugs, alcohol, unemployment, crime, abuse, and anger cloud their judgment—and guilt, fear, shame, unreasonable expectations, and frightening consequences cloud our own.

Orchestrated by the master of chaos, it’s a vicious cycle of insanity that must stop.

A Frightening Fact

As Christians, we understand the impact of Satan’s power to corrupt and destroy a human life, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in our country’s devastating epidemic of drug addiction.

Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, and “club drugs” have turned our children into strangers. They will do almost anything for that next high—that next fix—and it seems nothing we say or do can break through the demonic hold of drugs.

We live in a world entirely different from the one in which most of us grew up. Today, parents around the country are barely hanging on to their sanity as they struggle to effectively help adult children who are dealing with serious, life-threatening issues brought on by a scourge blanketing every city in every state with death and destruction.

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans younger than 50. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 64,000 Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose in 2016, including 15,446 heroin overdoses. The total is more than 20 times the number of Americans killed on 9/11.[i]

How did this happen? What went wrong? We’re hard-working, honest, God-fearing Christians who have always tried to do the right thing—the best thing—the most helpful thing.

This isn’t how life is supposed to be.

Change Starts When We Stop Believing Lies

When I wrote Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children in 2009, there were few (if any) resources that addressed the growing epidemic of parental enabling from the perspective of a mother whose adult son was addicted to heroin, often homeless, and in and out of prison on a regular basis. It’s hard not to come to the rescue when the child you love is a self-destructive addict.

Yet how we “rescue” is critical. And when God showed me that all my “helping” was really “handicapping,” I knew it was time for me to make changes. Changes that started when I began to identify and overcome the lies that kept me and ultimately, my son in bondage. Lies that Satan has successfully used to keep parents like me trapped on what I call a vicious gerbil-wheel of insanity—running fast but getting nowhere.

Lies such as we’re bad parents if we don’t bail our kids out of jail, or pay for rehab, or buy them a car, or pay their insurance. Or, that it’s our fault if our child (fill-in-the-blank). Or even lies that justify violence and stealing, like he didn’t mean to do it, or she’s really a good kid, it’s the drugs, not her. Satan has successfully used lies to convince us that it’s our duty as Christian parents to come to the rescue of our children whenever they’re in trouble—no matter what. And if we don’t, then we must be unloving, selfish, and judgmental monsters.

This tactic of self-blame and guilt is exactly what the enemy wants. Satan wants nothing more than to break our hearts because when he does, he breaks the place where Christ dwells within us. Folks, this is a battle for our hearts and minds. Jesus will never leave us, but when we believe Satan’s lies, we push Christ out by accepting responsibility for the actions of our troubled adult children instead of allowing them (and maybe even us) to experience the spiritual and life growth lesson(s) God wants to teach us.

God knows what he’s doing.

We are not God.

The Battlefield in Your Brain

In his book 30 Days to Overcoming Emotional Strongholds, Tony Evans shows how destructive negative thoughts and emotions can be, and he provides a strategy for taking control of them:

 One of Satan’s favorite strategies is to plant his thoughts in our minds, disguising them as our thoughts. We accept them as true and begin to act on them. This is the same strategy he used with Eve in the garden when he twisted God’s truth and enticed her to sin.

But if Satan is responsible for these sinful thoughts, how can we be blamed for thinking them or acting on them? The answer is that you and I are responsible for what we do with these thoughts once they enter our minds.

When a thought enters your mind, luring you into an emotional stronghold of worry, doubt, anger, hate, or shame, you have two choices. You can reject the thought, or you can adopt it and make it your own. By rejecting it, you tear down the stronghold and put an end to the false way of thinking. It can’t dominate or corrupt your emotions any longer. [ii]

Created to Love

We were created for one essential purpose, and that is to love and be loved by God.

When we stop letting ourselves be consumed by the problems of our troubled adult children, we can grow closer to the Lord and develop a life-giving relationship with Him, a relationship that ultimately will change our heart. And with this changed heart, we will be better able to love others—especially our struggling children—with His love.

I have a plaque hanging by my front door that continually reminds me how I need to view not only those closest to me but also, when possible, the world in which I live.

It reads, Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

If our hearts aren’t open, we probably won’t see the situations, circumstances, and internal illnesses that have transformed our adult children into people we barely recognize. Sadly, their words and actions keep us on the defensive and blind us to what’s really going on under the surface. Clearly, Satan has devised a brilliant strategy for not only keeping our kids in bondage but also keeping us parents from identifying the real issues at hand. And the more Satan convinces us that it’s “all our fault,” the more we perpetuate the vicious gerbil wheel of insanity that keeps everyone in bondage.

Counterfeit Grace—aka: Cheap Grace

It’s been said that nothing ruins the truth like stretching it. The doctrine of God’s Grace is a biblical truth, but it can be distorted when it is not kept in balance with other biblical truths.

In his article titled What is Grace? Pastor, teacher, and author John MacArthur addressed the conundrum of grace in a way that really made sense to me—speaking to both my head and my heart.

Many years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined a term that has come to characterize much of evangelical Christianity — it’s the term “cheap grace.” Cheap grace is, in reality, a self-imparted grace, a pseudo-grace, and in the end the consequences of living by it are very, very costly.

Cheap grace is not at all a reference to God’s grace; it’s a contemptible counterfeit. It’s a grace that is “cheap” in value, not cost. It is a bargain-basement, damaged-goods, washed-out, moth-eaten, second-hand grace. It is a man-made grace reminiscent of the indulgences Rome was peddling in Martin Luther’s day. Cheap? The cost is actually far more than the buyer could possibly realize, though the “grace” is absolutely worthless.

Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and Nazi resister. He was hanged in 1945 by SS guards, but not before his writings had left their mark. Bonhoeffer’s theological perspective was neo-orthodox, and evangelicalism rightly rejects much of his teaching. But Bonhoeffer spoke powerfully against the secularization of the church. He correctly analyzed the dangers of the church’s frivolous attitude toward grace. After we discard the neo-orthodox teachings, we do well to pay heed to Bonhoeffer’s diatribe against cheap grace:

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure the remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church, the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace, therefore, amounts to a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. “All for sin could not atone.” The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners, “even in the best life,” as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin.

Cheap grace has not lost its worldly appeal since Bonhoeffer wrote those words. If anything, the tendency to cheapen grace has eaten its way into the heart of evangelical Christianity. While verbally extolling the wonders of grace, it exchanges the real item for a facsimile. [1]

In the same article, John MacArthur goes on to say that, “This bait-and-switch tactic has confounded many sincere Christians. Many professing Christians today utterly ignore the biblical truth that grace “instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Instead, they live as if grace were a supernatural “Get Out of Jail FREE” card, a no-strings-attached, open-ended package of amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and self-awarded privilege divorced from any moral demands.”

Ouch.

I couldn’t help but think of my son’s choices, my choices, and the entire context of our relationship as it related to those words; “amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and self-awarded privilege divorced from any moral demands.” I came to realize that when we choose counterfeit grace over God’s grace, Satan will continue to reign over our lives.

How many good Christian parents accept counterfeit grace in their own lives as well as in the lives of their loved ones?

I’ve been learning to “walk the talk” as a Christian since my mid-thirties when I gave my life to the Lord. It’s been a series of tough choices, drastic changes, and miraculous blessings. Without a doubt, the person I am today is far removed from who I was back then. I’ve been blessed with and discipled by Godly mentors and teachers. As an author and speaker, I’ve had opportunities to cross denominational boundaries and share my testimony in environments that have opened doors to hope and healing—for myself as well as for others. God has been working on me for a long time, but that hasn’t always translated to my ability to actively disciple my son.

For the longest time, I didn’t want to “preach” at Chris when his choices were less-than Godly. I didn’t know what to say to him. I had lived a life void of spiritual boundaries and Scriptural truth for so many years, I felt ill-equipped to speak up. This was a clever lie Satan used to maintain the dysfunctional status quo.

Christopher accepted the Salvation of Christ at age 31 while in prison. It’s been many years, but it seems he’s always kept one foot firmly planted in the sinful ways of the world, and the other gently skimming the fertile soil of faith. We can’t ask Christ into our lives and continue to make choices that are anything but Christlike. There must be a discernible difference between a “Before Christ” and “After Christ” life.

God’s Word is clear when He teaches us that we can’t live fully for Him when we live in both worlds. I want so much for my son to experience the true freedom that comes when we live in obedience—according to God’s plan and purpose for our life.

Yet for the longest time, I felt powerless to do anything except pray.

And while prayer is indeed powerful, there are times when it must be supplemented with action and accountability.

I want my son to make the connection that as a Christian he has been called to a higher purpose. That as a Christian he has been grafted into a family of believers that extends far beyond his reach—a family where he will always be accepted but one that has established guidelines for living in peace and harmony and walking in obedience.

And so, I now tell him we will never be perfect, and the process to change behavior, break habits, and learn new ways to approach old situations isn’t easy.

However, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 NIV).

Saying Good-bye to Satan’s Lies

We must rid ourselves of the counterfeit grace, guilt, and shame that Satan has used to keep us and those we love in bondage. When we put our hope in God, we will never be disappointed. Hope is always based on the guaranteed promises of God, and hope is something we can give to our struggling adult children. “[God] helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 GNT).

Hope and healing can miraculously replace fear and pain when we make the transition from “This isn’t how life is supposed to be,” to “This is how it is, now what does God want me to learn and do as a result?” Real change begins when we can see our troubled adult children for who they really are as God’s children, love them unconditionally, and speak words of hope and encouragement into their lives.

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About Bridges and Boundaries

Allison Bottke’s Bridges and Boundaries column is about building healthy connections in challenging relationships. The bridges that connect us, and the boundaries that define us. Those we make with others, ourselves, and yes, even with God. The truth is, there are times when setting healthy boundaries is the only way to build a sturdy bridge between God and those we care about. For more information on Allison’s soon-to-launch SANITY Support Podcast or on her books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries© series, visit her website at AllisonBottke.com

About Allison

With over a half-million of her books in print, Allison Bottke is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 32 non-fiction and fiction books, including the acclaimed God Allows U-Turns compilation book series, the God Answers Prayers series, and the bestselling, award-winning Setting Boundaries series. Book one in her current series, Setting Boundaries with your Adult Children, has hit #1 in the Amazon.com “Parenting” category several times, and after a decade is still being heralded as a landmark resource for parents and grandparents. The long-awaited follow-up to that book, How to Connect with Your Troubled Adult Children, Effective Strategies for Parents in Pain released in 2019 to critical acclaim. This new book addresses many of the hot button issues affecting families today. Issues such as drug addiction, emotional and mental illness, financial problems, incarceration, and more.

A frequent guest on national radio and TV programs around the country, Allison has been featured on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, the 700 Club, the Dr. Laura Show, and others. She is also a frequent guest on Good Morning Texas. Her SANITY Support with Allison Bottke Podcast will launch in late 2019.

In 2013, Setting Boundaries with Food won the prestigious Selah Award for Best Book of the Year. And in 2014, Allison was honored with the annual Author of Influence Award at the Roaring Lamb Christian Writers Conference for her body of work and ongoing desire to assist men and women around the world in their efforts to achieve success in the field.

As a collaborative editor and ghostwriter, Allison has also helped over a dozen writers to become published authors of their own non-fiction books and memoirs. Such as Fox News Anchor Christine Devine, Operation Care Founder, Susie Jennings, and Courage for Life Founder, Ann White.

Allison was instrumental as the Developmental Editor of Dr. Victoria Sarvadi’s ground-breaking memoir, Just a Little Girl, and has remained as the in-house writer and editor for Dr. Sarvadi’s numerous outreaches that fall under the auspices of The Nathaniel Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by Victoria and her husband, Paul Sarvadi.

Allison lives in the DFW Metroplex area. AllisonBottke.com

[1] The Cost of Discipleship [New York: Collier, 1959], 45-46).

[i] James Winnefeld, “A Scourge That Spares No Family,” The Week, January 12, 2018, 41.

[ii] Tony Evans, 30 Days to Overcoming Emotional Strongholds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2015), 9.

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Setting Spiritual Boundaries

Healthy boundaries—particularly healthy spiritual boundaries—define who we are and influence all areas of our lives. In fact, it is when we establish spiritual boundaries that we learn some of the most critical life lessons.

How can we set healthy boundaries, replace destructive habits, and undo damage that’s been done to our spirits? How can our lives come to be characterized by compassion, mercy, justice, and love when these feelings and traits are often buried deep under emotional pain and heartache?

Quite simply, we can’t. We can’t make these radical changes on our own. Our human limitations prevent that. Only with God’s help—only with His Spirit’s transforming work—can we receive a new nature. Only by reorganizing our priorities, putting God first, understanding our identity in Christ, and making time for fundamental spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study can our lives begin to reflect the character of Christ.

In their book How People Grow, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend explained the necessity of spiritual growth this way:

When people came to us for counseling, we wanted them to understand that the issues they were working on were not growth issues or counseling issues, but spiritual growth issues. Spiritual growth, in our mind, was the answer to everything… Spiritual growth should affect relationship problems, emotional problems, and all other problems of life. There is no such thing as our “spiritual life” and then our “real life.” It is all one.

…We wanted people who were growing to know not only how to grow, but that their growth was biblical growth. We wanted them to understand that “if you are getting better, it is because you are growing spiritually. You are doing what the Bible says to do.” People need not only to grow, but also to understand where that growth fits into a larger picture of God’s plan for them and his plan of redemption. It is good to know that their growth is for him.[i]

Maintaining healthy spiritual boundaries is an integral part of spiritual growth and walking in obedience to God. That’s why constructing boundaries around our relationship with God is healthy. These boundaries protect our daily time with the Lord, time that we spend reading the Word, praying, praising, and worshipping God, time that He uses to make us more like Jesus.

I’m not sure I would have survived these six decades were it not for my relationship with God and the wisdom and guidance He pours into my parched soul on a daily basis through His Word and His Spirit. Learning to view my journey through a lens of faith in Almighty God truly saved my life.

Sadly, many of our children are not viewing life through a lens of faith. Or if they are, their perspective is often distorted by a skewed perception of who God is and how He works to grow us and shape our character. Learning to reorganize their priorities, put God first, understand their identity in Christ, and make time for fundamental spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study are spiritual disciplines our children desperately need to incorporate in their lives, yet we cannot force them to act.

If we want to make a difference and connect with our troubled kids in a way that just might, over time, plant a seed or light a spark in their bruised, broken, and sometimes blackened hearts, these kids need to see the face of God. After all, who knows more about pain than Jesus? Our kids need to experience the character of Christ and witness the fruit that comes when people live with the Holy Spirit as their strength and their guide.

“Well, that sounds great, Allison,” you might say, “but who exactly is this saintly instructor, this spiritual role model?”

In a word? You.

It’s time to stop telling our kids why they need Jesus and instead show them Jesus. Consistently. We show them by being parents who walk the talk. Parents who celebrate the freedom that comes with godly control of our actions and a willingness to accept the consequences of our wrong choices. Parents who don’t always have all the answers but are connected to and dependent on Jesus as a daily part of life. Parents who are willing to go through whatever pain life might bring and ask God, “What do You want me to learn from this?” And parents who understand that God grows us through pain and that when we learn the biblical lesson He has for us, we come out on the other side a changed—and better—person.

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For more information on Allison’s books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries series, visit her website at AllisonBottke.com

[1] Henry Cloud and John Townsend, How People Grow (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 21-22.

[i] Henry Cloud and John Townsend, How People Grow (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 21-22.

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Growing Faith in a Garden

Gardening is my exercise, therapy, and quite often the incubator that gives birth to new ideas and frequently provides me with creative answers when I’m stuck in my head on a writing project-in-progress. As springtime in Texas begins to reach its full potential, I’ve found myself immersed in a DIY landscaping project that has given me countless hours of personal satisfaction while at the same time fueling my creativity and inspiring my spirituality in unexpected ways.

Gardening, in all its cyclical stages of hibernation, germination, growth, and abundant glory gives me the rare (and deeply appreciated) ability to combine physical labor with spiritual introspection and prayer. I feel close to God when I’m in my garden. This season, as I progressed through the stages of tilling, digging, planting, fertilizing, weeding, watering, and pruning, I found myself likening the structured stages of gardening to the growth in my personal life and professional career as a writer. Without structure, a life purpose can get lost, a story idea can run rampant, and the point of both can become obscured in an overgrown tangle of weeds.

The theme of this issue of Kaleidoscope is harvest time—a season where growth (in all its forms) is taking shape all around us. Be it literally in countless fields across the country, to the far more personal areas of spiritual, emotional and relational growth. For me, growth in all its forms is visible everywhere. It surrounds me like a warm blanket on a cold evening—like a burst of sunshine on an overcast day. It’s even helping me connect in unexpected ways with my incarcerated adult child.

As a writer, I didn’t set out to be the author of a series of books based on setting healthy boundaries. I’d written 24+ trade published books before I penned the story of my challenging relationship with my adult child—the book that became my first bestseller and gave birth to a new season in my professional—and personal—life. Thirty-two books later, growth continued when I branched out into working one-on-one with clients to help them achieve their writing and publishing dreams. I have learned so much from the godly men and women I’ve worked with over the past years.

Today, working closely with Dr. Victoria Sarvadi and her team of spiritual warriors to produce Kaleidoscope and develop ministry outreach projects and books has produced in my life a harvest of exceptional opportunities. Even more important is the incredible insight into the Bible I have gleaned from her teachings and the newfound connection I have with Jesus as I’ve begun to study the Bible and view my faith through His 1st-Century lens of faith.

Bridges and Boundaries is a column about building healthy connections in challenging relationships. The bridges that connect us, and the boundaries that define us. Those we make with others, ourselves, and yes, even with God. The truth is, there are times when setting healthy boundaries is the only way to build a sturdy bridge between those we care about.

When this fruitful season of abundant growth begins to wane and the color retreats underground, we can rest assured that the cycle of growth will return at its appointed time. This is God’s unfailing promise to us.

There is no escaping pain, hurt, and disappointment in life. We live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect humans. However, we also live in a world of second chances and new beginnings. Getting over something often requires going through something. It’s important to remember that heartbreak isn’t the final destination, it’s a season where hibernation, contemplation, and expectation can give birth to unexpected blessings, unforeseen miracles, and a bountiful harvest of opportunities. Don’t lose sight of what God is doing beneath the surface. Your heart and soul matters to Him—in all the seasons of your life.

Happy gardening as you dig into God’s Word!

Allison

For more information on Allison’s soon-to-launch SANITY Support Podcast or on her books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries© series, visit her website at AllisonBottke.com

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Spiritual Boundaries

How can we set healthy boundaries, replace destructive habits, and undo damage that’s been done to our spirits? How can our lives come to be characterized by compassion, mercy, justice, and love when these feelings and traits are often buried deep under emotional pain and heartache? 

Quite simply, we can’t. We can’t make these radical changes on our own. Our human limitations prevent that. Only with God’s help—only with His Spirit’s transforming work—can we receive a new nature. Only by reorganizing our priorities, putting God first, understanding our identity in Christ, and making time for fundamental spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study can our lives begin to reflect the character of Christ.  

Maintaining healthy spiritual boundaries is an integral part of spiritual growth and walking in obedience to God. That’s why constructing boundaries around our relationship with God is healthy. These boundaries protect our daily time with the Lordtime that we spend reading the Word, praying, praising, and worshipping Godtime that He uses to make us more like Jesus.  

I’m not sure I would have survived these six decades were it not for my relationship with God and the wisdom and guidance He pours into my parched soul on a daily basis through His Word and His Spirit. Learning to view my journey through a lens of faith in Almighty God truly saved my life.  

Sadly, many of our troubled adult children are not viewing life through a lens of faith. Or if they are, their perspective is often distorted by a skewed perception of who God is and how He works to grow us and shape our character. Learning to reorganize their priorities, put God first, understand their identity in Christ, and make time for fundamental spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study are spiritual disciplines our children desperately need to incorporate in their lives, yet we cannot force them to act. 

If we want to make a difference and connect with our troubled kids in a way that just might, over time, plant a seed or light a spark in their bruised, broken, and sometimes blackened hearts, these kids need to see the face of God. After all, who knows more about pain than Jesus? Our kids need to experience the character of Christ and witness the fruit that comes when people live with the Holy Spirit as their strength and their guide. 

“Well, that sounds great, Allison,” you might say, “but who exactly is this saintly instructor, this spiritual role model?” 

In a word? You.  

It’s time to stop telling our kids why they need Jesus and instead show them Jesus. Consistently. We show them by being parents who walk the talk. Parents who celebrate the freedom that comes with godly control of our actions and a willingness to accept the consequences of our wrong choices. Parents who don’t always have all the answers but are connected to and dependent on Jesus as a daily part of life. Parents who are willing to go through whatever pain life might bring and ask God, “What do You want me to learn from this?” And parents who understand that God grows us through pain and that when we learn the biblical lesson He has for us, we come out on the other side a changed—and better—person. 

God’s Plan 

Many of our troubled children have lost years of their lives to drug abuse or undiagnosed mental illness, and they need to be the ones who seek to reclaim those years. We can’t do it for them. Neither can we force them to open the eyes of their heart to see a Father who loves them and wants the best for them. But we can provide an environment that could nurture a spiritual awakening in our children.  

After all, the big picture of God’s plan should affect everything we do in life, not just what we do on Sundays. How we connect with Jesus every day will impact how we connect with everyone, especially our troubled adult child. 

Take a minute to imagine God speaking to you right now“How much do you want your child to know about Me?” 

If your answer to God is, “Nothing is more important to me than having my child love You, walk with You, and serve You,” the best thing you can do is to show your child what a heart for God looks like. 

When we love and obey God, it shows in what we do, how we speak, the ways we interact with people, how we spend our timeOur love for God can show in every aspect and every moment of our lives. 

Furthermore, God trains us to be who He needs us to be—and He doesn’t need us to be our child’s Savior. That is God’s responsibility. 

What God wants from us is to depend on Him: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

As our expert Gardener, God will prune our branches by helping us get untangled from unhealthy dependence. He will free us from trying to rescue and fix our adult childrenand we can instead allow Him to rescue and fix us. Our wise and good God wants us to make authentic, heartfelt choices that enable us to experience His truth and love and to actively pursue spiritual growth in ways that affect real life. 

As we walk in God’s Word and will, pouring out our heartache to Him, we can find hope, healing, and direction. And we desperately need those blessings as we seek how best to connect with our troubled adult children and help them experience that pushing through their struggles makes them stronger. Our knowing and obeying God’s Word is essential: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 gnt). 

We want the Lord to enable us to love our adult children wisely and well with His love. 

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For more information on the bestselling Setting Boundaries series and her newest book; How to Connect with Your Troubled Adult Children, visit Allison’s website at AllisonBottke.com 

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Don’t Dread That Upcoming Family Gathering

It’s beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving and Christmas … the time of year when family members from near and far away gather, those we can’t wait to see…and others we wish we didn’t have to see. There, I said it. You know the ones I mean…the outspoken family member whose challenging opinions come to the forefront of every conversation, or the troubled souls who seem to carry their drama, chaos, and crisis into every occasion. Then we have those folks whose choices bring a black cloud over every gathering, often turning festive occasions into frustrating nightmares.

Let’s face it, folks, some of our family relationships (and members) are a tad dysfunctional. And sadly, there’s something about family gatherings that seems to bring out the worst in some people.

If you can relate, take heart! SANITY is possible, and it’s going to be my gift to you this holiday season. As the author of the Setting Boundaries ® book series from Harvest House Publishers, some people think I’m an expert at setting and keeping healthy boundaries. However, that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, I’m one of the most boundary-challenged people I know. The truth is, I’m often faced with situations and circumstances where my boundary setting ability is tested beyond belief. Times when I find myself repeating the Six-Steps to SANITY over and over in my mind as I make intentional choices in how to respond to a person who is pushing my buttons.

And therein lies the secret to your contribution toward a peaceful family gathering.

Make intentional choices.

We can and should set healthy boundaries with difficult people at the appropriate time. Yet too often, we ignore the need to do so because we don’t want to make waves, or we fear being misunderstood, or of not being a “good Christian,” and we simply wait passively, letting the chips fall where they may. Or, we respond emotionally and aggressively, protecting ourselves (and sometimes others) at all costs. Either way, we are then put in the position of having to continually put out fires instead of preventing them in the first place. If only we could change the difficult people in our life!

However, here’s the rub—we can’t change anyone other than ourselves. What we can do is to consciously and intentionally change how we respond to them.

During this season of peace and goodwill toward others, let’s remember that it is possible to be loving and firm at the same time. It is possible to agree to disagree and make the intentional choice not to engage in conflict. It is possible to have a family gathering that doesn’t end in chaos and conflict.

This season, instead of letting those difficult people get under your skin, make a vow beforehand to respond in an entirely different manner. Apply the S Step in SANITY and STOP responding in ways that fuel the fire. STOP allowing your buttons to be pushed and practice beforehand how you will respond to Aunt Sally’s nagging about your job, or to your sister’s constant enabling of her adult children, or to your Grandpas swearing.

This year confound the challenging people in your life with your new communication skills.

My prayer for you this season and throughout the New Year is that by using the principles of SANITY, your life will change…and just maybe the lives of others in your sphere will change, too. Decide this will be the year to live the kind of life God intended you to live, a life of love, joy, peace, and prosperity.

A life where you jump off the gerbil-wheel of insanity and embrace SANITY in all the difficult relationships in your life. ~

For more information on the 6-Steps to SANITY and on her books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries series, visit Allison’s website at AllisonBottke.com

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Connecting Can Be Complicated

The bonds between parents and children can be complicated. As we work to repair or redefine the connections we have with our troubled adult children, we may also be dealing with one or more of six stress-inducing areas that can make rebuilding the relationship significantly more challenging and complicated. You won’t be surprised by any item on the list: money, incarceration, painful memories, grandchildren, family interference, and blended families. Because each of these six issues plays out differently in different circumstances with different people, I don’t have any one-size-fits-all solution.

But I can assure you that whatever time you spend now thinking and praying about any of these issues that impact you will be worthwhile. Ask the Lord—who promises to give us wisdom when we ask (James 1:5)—to help you know how to address any matters relevant to your unique circumstances. When we are armed with knowledge, God’s wisdom, and some specific strategies, we are better prepared to—in the power of the Spirit—do what we need to do in a given family situation. Let’s get started.

Love Is Not Spelled M-O-N-E-Y

“Our son was arrested again.”

Those five words held so much pain as this mother continued to share…

“The legal fees, bail, and cost of setting him up—and our grandson who lived with us—after his release have wiped us out. We are taking out a second mortgage to pay off that debt, his rehab, and treatment of his recently diagnosed bipolar disorder. So much is going wrong! My husband has a heart condition and needs medical care too. We argue about finances daily. I’m torn up inside. All I ever wanted was for my son to have an easier path than we did. And now how will we retire? I can’t abandon my son! But if I don’t help him, who will?”

Once a mother, always a mother…We love our children with every fiber of our being, no matter the choices they make—or don’t make.

And far too often—especially when our children’s safety and security are threatened—those feelings send us to our checkbook or credit card, and we let our children’s needs trump our own financial well-being. Whether we are on a fixed income or have abundant financial resources, a common denominator among parents of troubled adult children is the continual flow of money from us to them. Whether it’s $20 or $20,000, we will face serious consequences when we consistently come to the rescue with our checkbook.

In an article in CNBC.com, Lorie Konish wisely warned, “You might want to think twice before giving money to your adult children. It could ultimately trigger your financial ruin. It is reported that 70% of parents continue to help their adult kids after the age of 18 with everything from cell phones to house payments. And many do so without even having a conversation with their kids about it.”[i] Think about it. Have you ever discussed financial accountability, planning, and budgeting with your adult child? Or does he/she think you will never run out of money? If so, what did you do to contribute to that misconception?

What Motivates Us to Give?

Diane Harris said in Forbes.com, that helping with our adult children’s basic living expenses makes sense only if there is a “solid reason they can’t yet fend for themselves” and that anything more is “hobbling them on the path to full-fledged adulthood.”[ii] Our intentions are good, but the results can be bad.

When giving or loaning money to adult children, we must first consider our finances. Financial guru Suze Orman advises, “Say no out of love rather than yes out of fear.”[iii]

Our level of commitment to our children is not only a matter of the heart. It must be a matter of the head too. Our emotional responses to our kid’s problems have led many of us to refinance our homes, deplete our 401Ks, and even file for bankruptcy. Sadly, for many of us, money has done little or nothing to affect a solution to our child’s grim circumstances.

Consider the Consequences

We want our kids to be happy and healthy. When our kids are sick, either with an addiction or a diagnosed mental illness, we feel compelled to do everything we can for them. But decisions about our own financial futures must be weighed against the immediate and sometimes long-term care our troubled kids may need.

Before we make any financial commitments, we must consider the consequences. Financial and emotional burdens can hurt us not only mentally and physically, but they can also damage our marriages and other vital relationships.

And some of us find ourselves not only trying to navigate a relationship with our adult children wisely but also caring for their children. The love we have for our grandkids is complicated by the fear we have of our adult children’s unhealthy lifestyle and poor choices.

Closing the Bank of Mom and Dad

Our money must, however, stop being the life preserver that buoys up our adult children, keeping them afloat after yet another shipwreck. You and I might be amazed by how well our adult children can swim when given the opportunity. More important, they might be surprised by their ability to survive without life support—and that’s a powerful lesson that no amount of money can buy.

[i] Lorie Konish with CNBC.com quoted in “Giving money to your adult children,” The Week, January 26, 2018, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-week-us/20180126/282437054534069.

[ii] Diane Harris with Forbes.com quoted in “Giving money to your adult children,” The Week, January 26, 2018, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-week- us/20180126/282437054534069.

[iii] Suze Orman, “Managing Money” The Costco Connection 33, January 2018, 17.

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

It’s Time for Us to Change

Enabling parents with troubled adult children live either smack-dab in the middle of a crisis, or we’re simply in between crises, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every time the phone rings at night we are catapulted to a place of despair. Will it be our adult child in a drunken or drugged stupor, the police…or the morgue?

Let’s look at these two ways we live and what we need to do to implement the decision to stop enabling and to set healthy boundaries with our adult child.

  1. In between crises: Without a doubt, this is the best time to put our decision into motion. We would be wise to develop our action plan during this time, then present it to our adult child, and get out of the way.
  2. In crisis mode: This is a harder time to implement our decision to change how we respond, but it can also show an immediate effect. If, for instance, the adult child has been arrested, do we intervene, or not? If the adult child lives at home and is involved in anything related to drugs, alcohol, crime, violence, unacceptable behavior, or any type of illegal activity whatsoever, do we insist on his immediate departure from our home? Do we call the authorities if necessary? Or … do we (once again) come to the rescue?

It takes determination, hard work, and commitment to stop playing our adult child’s game. And, of course, it takes a great deal of effort on the part of our adult children to change. But unless they are emotionally or mentally disabled, it’s up to them to make the choice. Either they will do what it takes, or they won’t.

Remember, the goal in making changes that might actually change things is to fix our brokenness first and stop trying to fix theirs. Think of the flight attendant instruction to put on your air mask first, before assisting others.

You don’t want to repeat a response or behavior that hasn’t worked before. It’s time to do something different. To get smart and take action, we must be ready to declare the following:

As of today, I will no longer be:

  • An enabler to someone who has no self-respect or respect for me
  • A rescuer to someone who has no desire to be rescued
  • A caregiver to someone who is capable of caring for himself

That means it’s time to develop a plan that will enable us to implement these crucial steps. We must come to the table as cool, calm, and collected adults with a well-developed written plan that clearly indicates our goals. Above all, we must speak this new plan in love and not in heated anger or frustration.

If you are not strong enough to do this alone, ask for help. Enlist the aid of an already established support group, reliable counselor, or professional interventionist, someone who is willing and able to stand in the gap for you, to be an accountability partner or to intervene as your mouthpiece if needed.

Your attitude is key. It will help if you can:

  1. Realize that you can hate the situation and still love your adult child.
  2. Have confidence that God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
  3. Accept the truth that the time has come for drastic measures.

The next step is to pray—before and throughout the process. Then talk with your mate or counselor, and write your decisions so all involved can be clear on what they are. Don’t make developing this action plan so elaborate that you never get it accomplished. Set a timeframe to get the plan developed, and do it. A detailed Action Plan Template (to help launch a mentally capable adult child from dependent weakness to independent strength) is available in my book.

When you are ready to present your plan of action to your child, remember that you are setting him on a difficult course—and he might not be happy about it. But you must be strong. You should know by now from your own experience that difficulty in life is not always a bad thing. What your child perceives as difficult, you as the parent should see as the opening of a series of opportunities for your child to have some meaning in his life.

Healing often comes through pain first. Physical therapy is painful, but it’s always conducted for our good. So, too, are God’s plans always meant for our good—even when we couldn’t understand them.

I’ve found that when it comes to consequences, we need to overcome four needs on our journey to establishing healthy boundaries with our adult children.

  1. The need to overcome the often paralyzing fear of consequences
  2. The need to accept that there will be consequences and be willing to live with them
  3. The need to prepare for possible consequences—positive and negative
  4. The need to focus on the consequences about our life, not just to the life of the adult child

Something to think about …

We may be hindering our adult children from living out their God-given destiny when we shelter them from the consequences of their actions. And yet, even knowing that the mere thought of the negative consequences our adult children might experience sends many of us into a state of abject terror. Could it be that for some of our adult children this new journey toward independence might be phenomenally freeing? Perhaps the consequences won’t be as bad as we think.

Deciding to parent differently, regardless of consequences, is a key ingredient in making the changes needed to stop our enabling behavior. It’s never too late to parent differently—and it’s never too late for many of our capable adult children to grow up and take responsibility for their lives.

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Adapted from Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, Six Steps to Hope and Healing by Allison Bottke © 2008. Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Visit www.AllisonBottke.com

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Allison Bottke Bridges & Boundaries

Loving our Troubled Adult Children with Open Arms

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

As we walk the journey to set healthy boundaries and find sanity in challenging relationships with troubled adult children, I can’t stress enough the need to be strong in our convictions—strong and loving. We need to learn about our own choices—and how we must change our responses to the choices our troubled adult children make. We need to learn that we can’t change our kids—and the fact is they may never change. It’s a sad thing to acknowledge—but it may be true. However, the opposite may be true as well. When we follow God’s Word to love within His established boundaries and develop a backbone that is firm, straight and loving, there’s no telling how it may change the people we love.

And we do love them. No matter how angry they make us. No matter how they break our hearts. That’s why we’ve made so many poor enabling choices along the road. But no more. Our enabling days are behind us. We’ve learned we are not bad parents if we say, “no” with firmness and love and “yes” with honest authenticity. We’ve learned the critical need to be strong and loving at the same time.

Throughout Scripture, the Lord was often quite firm in the lessons he taught his followers. But His firm hand came with a loving heart.

I know what it feels like to want the pain to stop—to want to turn away from my son and never have to deal with his poor choices and chaotic issues ever again. But he’s my son, and I love him. Yet that doesn’t mean I have to accept his choices with open arms, nor does it mean I have to bear the acute financial responsibility for them. Holding our children accountable and allowing them to accept the consequences of their actions is one of the most loving things we can do.

It can be a life-changing moment when we realize that our troubled adult children may need to walk their own Damascus roads to be the people God intends for them to be. We can love them with open arms and an open heart—and trust that God is in the ultimate control and He has a plan far greater than we can ever imagine.

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Allison Bottke is an award-winning, bestselling author of over 30 non-fiction books, including the Setting Boundaries® book series from Harvest House Publishers. Her next book will release in November 2018, titled; How to Connect with Your Troubled Adult Children. Visit: www.AllisonBottke.com