Monday, January 19, 2015

Journaling for Better Health

“Writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health,” says James Pennebaker, Ph.D. Pennebaker, author of two books and more than 47 research studies correlating expressive writing and physiological/emotional healing, finds that journal writing results in fewer visits to primary care physicians, better adjustments to new settings, mood healing after surgery, and reduction of severe disease in chronically ill patients.

Yes, getting thoughts and feelings down on paper can be good for your health! However, as promising as journaling sounds, it can be daunting for some. Getting started is usually the biggest hurtle to jump. Here’s how.

Find what works for you. Kathleen Adams, pioneer in journal therapy, notes that “when people start getting results that work for them, they begin to buy into the process.” A variety of writing choices makes it possible for almost anyone to enjoy journaling. Adams writes in her book, The Way of the Journal: “In moments of ecstasy, in moments of despair the journal remains an impassive, silent friend, forever ready to coach, to confront, to critique, to console. Its potential as a tool for holistic mental health is unsurpassed.”

A variety of methods can be explored until you find the right fit. One technique might work for grief or depression while another technique works for problem solving.

  • Complete a sentence. This method provides sentence prompts to get you started. Some prompts might be: “Right now I feel……………..” or “One answer to my problem would be…..” or “One thing I want to accomplish today is…..” Sentence stems are quick and easy and provide a gentle, non-threatening way for reluctant writers to begin keeping a journal.

  • Write for five minutes. Limiting writing time can be less daunting than opening a blank page without a time limit. This form is good for trauma or shame-related issues. Journal how you’re feeling about a particular topic or situation in your life. You won’t necessarily finish in the five minute time allotment, but you can return to the topic another day. Writing on the same subject over time may reveal some patterns or open up feelings you were not aware of and that need to be flushed out of your system.

  • Keep a list. This technique is good when you need to determine the pros and cons of a decision. It is especially helpful for the obsessive-compulsive person who likes structure. A list idea that can be helpful for those suffering from depression can be broken into three categories: “Three things I am thankful for today are ……; three things I feel good about are…; and three things I take pleasure in are….” This idea can be expanded to a longer list of “Twenty (or any number you choose) Things I Enjoy.” Lists can be used for any theme and can provide insight, as often repetitive entries will appear on the list.

  • Start a community journal. This can be a fun way to involve your spouse or entire family, and can be a great way to problem-solve daily issues. Young children can draw pictures. One idea would be to have each member of the family take turns deciding on a topic to write about. For example, if journaling is done once a week, a topic might be “My favorite activity this week was….” or “The worst moment of my week was….” or “One thing I would like to do as a family is…..” Keep the journal in an accessible place, such as the kitchen counter or coffee table. Community journals can be springboards for effective communication which leads to better family health.

Follow through with journaling. Once you have experimented with a few forms of writing, stick with it! Decide on a time and place to write. Shoot for three to four times a week. If that is too much, try just one day a week. Whatever you decide, make your goal attainable for you. In his studies, Pennebaker discovered that writing 15-20 minutes a day for four consecutive days yielded physiological improvement, as in lower blood pressure. Thus, journaling can be good for your health!

For more information on journal therapy, log onto

Friday, January 9, 2015

What Gets You Up in the Morning?

            What gets you up in the morning? Maybe it’s the alarm clock, the kids screaming, or the dog licking your face. Perhaps, the aroma of coffee wafting from the kitchen or a poke in the ribs from your spouse stimulates a yawn and a groan.
            I’ve been thinking more about this lately, and I want my motivation for getting out of bed to be greater than someone else’s expectations for my day. I want my “get up and go” to be generated by a love for the Lord.
Indeed, the older I get, the more focused I become on what’s really important: Eternity. I want to finish well. In order to do that, I must keep my gaze on the finish line. The apostle Paul states in Philippians 3:13b-14,  . . . one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
            Paul notes that the Philippian believers are his joy and crown. He was instrumental in introducing many of them to Christ. He knows that someday in heaven, he will receive awards based on his faithful service while on earth.
            In Revelation 4:9-11, the twenty-four elders lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Given this, there is every reason to believe that all Christians will present their crowns to Jesus. And it will be with extreme joy and fulfillment that we do so.
The Scriptures reference five crowns that believers may receive in the next life.
1)      Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8) presented to all those who kept the faith and longed for Christ’s return.
2)      Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:19) given to all who introduced others to Christ, as Paul did; he refers to the Philippian believers as his “crown.”
3)      Crown of Life (James 1:12) awarded to all who endured temptation and trial with love for the Lord.
4)      Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:1-4) presented by the Chief Shepherd to those who tended His flock.
5)      Imperishable Crown (1 Cor. 9:25) presented to all those who subdued the sinful nature and ran the race well.
In keeping with this biblical teaching, two things get me up in the morning and motivate me throughout the day.
Visualizing myself placing crowns at Jesus’s feet. Not to gloat in my earthly achievements but to show my intense love and devotion for Him. I don’t think I’ll showcase my trophies on my mansion shelf for all to see, polishing them as I pass by. No, the supreme joy will come in presenting them to the Lord.
I used to be happy just to know I would be with Him, but the closer I get to the finish line, the more urgency I sense and the more I desire to give back to Him for all He has done for me. Crowns at His feet are a way of giving back when I see Him face to face.
Riding out of heaven with Him. Revelation 19:11-18 tells about a time when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will ride out of heaven on His white horse accompanied by the armies of heaven (all the saints). At that time, our Prince will bring justice, destroying evil on the earth. What a day that will be! If we’re ever tempted to take vengeance, we need only remember that Christ, the One who keeps better records than we do, will make all things right one grand day!
It takes discipline to focus on eternity. No one said it was easy! The here and now too easily consumes my thoughts. But knowing that I can someday praise and exalt my Savior, not only with my words but with a life well-lived, excites me and motivates me to love and share Him with others, guard my tongue, put to death my sin nature, and purposely long for His return.
That’s what gets me up in the morning. How about you?

Eileen Rife, author of Second Chance, speaks to women’s groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story.,

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sisterhood of the World bloggers!

Thank you, Paula Mowery, for nominating me for this Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

Here are the rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the Award logo on your blog.
3. Answer 10 questions you've been sent.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

Here are the questions I was sent and my answers:

1. What is something you would count as a "success" from this past year?
Sharing Jesus with my sisters

2. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
Other than Jesus, my darling husband, then my immediate family

3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Never give up!

4. If you could have a week to retreat, where would you go and what would you do?
I’d go back to Maui and relax by the ocean, journal, pray, dream, and brainstorm my next story.

5. Looking back on this year, what are five things you are especially thankful for?
My salvation, Chuck, my children, grandchildren, church family

6. What is one lesson you feel you learned this past year?
God is still at work even when I don’t see immediate results to my prayers.

7. If there were no limits, what is one goal you would like to achieve this year?
Finish my Savvy Sisters series and a missionary kid series

8. What is one Bible verse that is special to you and why?
Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the earth; I will be exalted among the nations.” A verse God gave me as a fifteen-year-old junior counselor at camp in the woods one day. Little did I know then that God would fulfill that verse in my life through my missionary children. I’m still learning to “be still.”

9. Do you make New Year's resolutions? Why or why not?
Nope. Too discouraging. Always seems like too much of a “pull myself up by my own bootstraps” idea. However, I do have a list of areas I think God has asked me to address. I put down goals in each of those areas and ask for His strength to take the next step.

10. Do you set goals for yourself in your spiritual life? Give an example.
Absolutely. This year I’m starting back through the Bible. I’m also sensing the Lord asking me to open up my home each week for my Life Group ladies to come and encourage one another while we stitch. 

Now for my nominees and their questions.

Jennifer Slattery, Sherri Wilson Johnson, Cathy West, Ada Brownell, Shannon Vannetter, Lynnette Bonner, Christine Lindsay, Kathleen Freeman, Debbie Mitchell, Sherry Kyle

1. What is your foremost prayer in this new year?
2. Name three goals that you'd like to shoot for.
3. What is your current writing project?
4. What do you enjoy doing for fun?
5. Other than the Bible, name the book that's had the most impact on your life and why. 
6. What will you do in this new year to reach out to someone else other than your family?
7. Explain why you like to write. 
8. What legacy do you hope to leave behind when you die?
9. Do you consider the local church important? Why or why not?
10. How can women who feel alone overcome isolation? 

Thanks again, Paula, for nominating me. May we each shine Christ's light to a lost world in this new year!

The End of One Story, the Beginning of Another

I flip through the calendar, a gift from my missionary daughter. Family face after family face jump off the pages. Grandkids roasting mar...