Grace Under Pressure Radio is a podcast about becoming a woman of courage, confidence, and candor.
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Writer’s Series on Coach Talk Radio

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Special Writer’s Series on Coach Talk Radio about the writing industry by @CAN_AuthorNews president, @AngBreidenbach, and the host of Coach Talk Radio, @SandraBeck.

It’s free to listen online to this Writer’s Series on Coach Talk Radio, on Toginet Radio weekly, or on your regular podcast provider like iTunes or Google Play. If you’d like to binge listen now, feel free.

Meet my friend, Sandra Beck, of Coach Talk Radio.

Meet my friend, Sandra Beck, of Coach Talk Radio.

You’ll find the Writer’s Series on Coach Talk Radio.

The interesting thing about this series is that Sandra Beck simply asked me to co-host a few discussions with her about writing. But then, she let me invite several writing friends and we kept adding them and adding them… and then…kept recording. We’ve had a great time and hope you will not only enjoy this series, but that you’ll also learn a lot from a lot of great writers to help your career or simply enjoy learning more about the writers you love.

I’ll add the individual recordings and more helpful handouts over the next few months to my website.

Can’t afford a writing conference yet, learn from home. Then decide if you want to take if deeper. #FreeEducation #AmWriting

Visit the Writing Series on Coach Talk Radio for topics like…

  1. Avoiding Rejection — Sandra Beck and Angela Breidenbach
  2. Synopsis/Book Proposals — Sandra Beck and Angela Breidenbach
  3. Conferences and Organizations — Sandra Beck and Angela Breidenbach
  4. Plots and Subplots — Sandra Beck and Angela Breidenbach
  5. Editing and Proofreading — Sandra and Angela with guest Kathy Ide
  6. Finding the right literary agent — Sandra and Angela with guest agent, Tamela Hancock Murray
  7. Traditional vs. Self-publishing — Sandra and Angela with guest Cynthia Hickey
  8. Character Arcs — Sandra and Angela with guest Sarah Sundin
  9. Creating Tension — Sandra and Angela with guests Dr. Richard Mabry and Sandra Orchard
  10. Marketing and Branding — Sandra Beck and Angela Breidenbach. We get real!
  11. Research Techniques — Sandra and Angela with guest Lena Nelson Dooley
  12. Writing Offices and Tools for the writer’s life — Sandra and Angela talk with the Pencildancers: Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Angela Breidenbach (I’m one too), Liz Tolsma, and Jennifer Vander Klipp
  13. The Art of the Craft — Sandra and Angela with guest Tracie Peterson

EP—21 Radiance or How to Handle Shame

Angie as assisting minister
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Welcome to Grace Under Pressure Radio, episode 21, and #4 in our 4 part series on Graciousness. Today’s episode is about radiance and how shame and humility can be used to radiate graciousness to others. It’s all in our perspective. First, let me share a few Appreciation Moments: Thanks for spreading the word!

  • Janice Roberson (@Janice_mentor) for retweeting about my new audiobook, Eleven Pipers Piping.
  • Elizabeth Goddard@bethgoddard for retweeting about the Jadyn Fred Foundation and the ministry they have to children in Montana.
  • Janet Chester Bly @blybooks
  • Janet M. Nast @JanetMNast and TheWritingReader @WritingReader for sharing the last episode of Grace Under Pressure Radio on Graciousness.
  • @ChristyLaShea for sharing about the first book in the Montana Beginnings series, The Debutante Queen.

Radiance: “Those who look to the Lord are radiant. There faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34: 5

The shimmer of a sunstone.

The shimmer of a sunstone. Gems of Wisdom jewelry supports the Sanctuary of Hope orphan homes.

The sunstone’s foreign pieces of hematite reflect light so it appears to glow and shimmer as if the stars were splintered and tossed into the sunset. What should be transparent and colorless is transformed into a twinkling glitter embedded in browns, pinks, and reds when exposed to light. Ah, foreign particles turn into beams of radiance . . .

The note rang out loud and clear from the piano. An F. A clear middle tone F note on the ivories, lovely for an alto. The same note every week started the call for mercy from the Lord. And like a pure angelic theme, the phrases poured out right on key from the liturgist. “In peace, in peace let us pray to the Lord. . . .”

Except they were wrong. The wrong words to the wrong song that started on the same pure clear F. The wrong opening liturgy (the traditional worship pattern of a service) hung in the air as an offering during the first Sunday of Advent.

I’d ruined the beginning of the Christmas season. The song from two weeks ago instead of the correct Kyrie, and none of the other musicians could recover from the blunder to cover the mistake. Actually, um . . . my, um . . . mistake.

“Let’s try that again,” the pianist said.

“Sorry.” I smiled to the congregation and nodded. The congregation giggled and waited expectantly.

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You don’t have to be perfect to serve, you just have to be willing. As many others were after that particular day 🙂

Angie as assisting minister

Angie as assisting minister (and they still let her sing after the Advent snafu of 2010…God works through our weakness.)

The clear F tone rang out and reverberated through the sanctuary. The liturgist’s mind—okay, my mind—whirled. I couldn’t settle on what was before me. Even though I doggone know how to sight-read, even though the liturgy changed almost every week, the only one in my head was the one from two weeks ago.

Look again, I told myself. Okay. Okay, I got it now. Or so I thought. “In peace, in peace let us pray to the Lord. . . .” Right about the second time I sang the words, I absolutely knew the tune, the Kyrie was again, sigh, wrong. I could not get it out of my head.

So Julie, sweet and kind and helpful, Julie, played the tone one more time as we all laughed. Everyone laughed with me because, well, I usually do it so well and so right. Right?

“In peace, in peace let us . . .” we stopped.

The senior pastor leaned over and tapped my book, “It’s only written once, not twice on this one.”

“I know. I can see it, but somehow my head doesn’t believe it.”

Julie spoke confidently into the microphone from behind the piano. “We’ll start again.”

I felt it. I felt the blood in my toes start on fire and move all the way through my legs, into my torso, and zing into my lips. I felt the flood in my cheeks and the warmth in my eyes. I was so embarrassed that even my eyeballs felt the flush. I don’t think I’ve ever been so ashamed in my life. I hadn’t even looked at the email telling me what the opening liturgy would be because I knew them all by heart. Uh-huh. My ego got in the way of my servant’s position. I knew them all. How humbling!

This time she played along with me, so I hit the right notes and couldn’t miss. The warmth didn’t leave my face through the entire opening worship.

I learned something that day.

  • Have you ever embarrassed yourself publicly?
  • Has someone else embarrassed you publicly?
  • How do you handle that kind of situation?

When I was younger, coping with all the embarrassing things my mother did and said was a constant. She’d tell me stories about people at work, the neighbors, and family members, and I never knew what was truth and what was not. As a result, I had difficulty trusting people. She kept letting me down as her stories were revealed as fabrications and I suffered discrimination because of her illness. She was either absolutely crazy or a liar—and no one wanted to believe she was crazy.

My mom’s mental illness made it impossible for her to keep a job. The ultimate behind-the-scenes moment happened in the kitchen on a dark night. She’d been fired again and stood sobbing at the sink. I think that’s what I remember most from my teens, the sound of sobbing. Mom believed the boss had a romantic interest in her. Several conversations happened that hadn’t really happened except in my mom’s mind, and she lost another job. My mother spent most of my high school years in bed fighting depression from losing several jobs and several imaginary lovers, while I worked.

Look at the surface. I was a junior in high school who twirled flags, sang in the choirs, and had earned a spot in the Highlights Jazz Ensemble. On top of that, I had a part in the school musical, wore decent clothes, and lived in a three-bedroom house. Who would think that girl needed help? I even had a cheerleading coach who told me no one in our school was so poor that they had to work to eat. Well, I didn’t think I was poor. I just had to work to eat. (I admit wishing I could go back and tell that coach a thing or two.) That’s the way it was for me. I knew other kids with jobs. It wasn’t abnormal for teens to work. When mom lost her jobs, I went to work. I created balance on that teeter-totter.

Since Heidi was my favorite childhood book, I loved bread and cheese. I romanticized the cheap food, pretending I ate it with Heidi and her grandfather high up in the Swiss Alps. No one knew that I ate cheese and bread at home almost every day. I loved it when a boy asked me out to dinner! I rarely refused. (Sorry, boys, but it’s the truth.)

No one knew how very little we had due to my mother’s condition. I kept my living situation very private; only my high school choir teacher knew my struggle for every dollar because each year’s choir participation required dresses and shoes. Even then, I kept what he knew to the minimum. He knew that my mom was troubled and had very little money. No one knew about the constant sobbing or the long line of lost paychecks or that the men she fancied didn’t fancy her back. It was all too embarrassing.

Sometimes, my end of the teeter-totter banged on the gravel. Sometimes I had to hang on tight for fear I’d go flying off at the top.

  • Do you keep things hidden?
  • Do you do things to balance the opposites?
  • What would happen if someone else knew?

How did it all work out?

Shame results from internalizing embarrassment. Embarrassment is often out of our control and public. Enter negative self-talk, especially if another person shows disapproval of a perceived failure. It’s easy to label and then dismiss that person.

When I failed three times in a row to sing the right liturgy, I embarrassed myself. It hurt! The gem of wisdom I learned was profound. When other people watch an “anointed one” perform, pedestals get built where they don’t belong.

When those pedestals topple, idolized people aren’t superhuman. I’m able to laugh at mistakes on stage or behind the altar because I realize that many people can do what I do. Anyone can choose to serve. Human beings serve God, and those humans are not gods.

Maybe they won’t sing, but it’s much more valid that fallible people serve rather than superman or superwoman. Too big of a gap makes it impossible to fill any job, volunteer or paid. It’s a bit too nerve-wracking if Superman’s been doing the job. God uses my brokenness as much as He uses my talents.

Public imperfection helps me model God using weakness for His glory. Trust me; I get to do a lot of imperfect modeling. That’s one of my not-so-hidden talents. Trained assistant ministers don’t fall dead of a heart attack because they start the service over again and again and again. Those errors became blessings.

Everyone in church noticed that I couldn’t get the song right. God knew what He would do with that fumble. He brought good out of it. Someone (or everyone) got the message loud and clear that Sunday from the perfect public example. And the great I AM uses weak people to create and implement His plan.

I learned something. Often what we see as our shame is not shame at all. Shift the paradigm to see the facts and not the emotion in the situation. It’s a great coping skill.

After the public snafu, the result was interesting:

I glanced around the people sitting in pews. Interesting. They all listened to the First Reading out of the Old Testament. No one was glaring at me. There were no accusatory stares. Not a single soul showed a minuscule trace of looking my way.

I think screwing up like that is a good thing. It shows other people you’re not perfect and that they shouldn’t idolize us. I think it helps the fearful realize they don’t have to be perfect either. Our mistakes work out for the best, especially when it keeps us humble and invites others to try a new possibility.

We accept embarrassment bestowed by others or imagined all on our own. It’s a feeling but not a fact. The facts exist on a completely different level. The way you feel about them is emotion. Emotion and fact have different definitions.

Definitions

  • Fact: the circumstance of an event, motion, occurrence, or state of affairs that is not an interpretation of its significance. Think objective, something anyone can observe.
  • Emotion: a strong feeling about something, a perception or interpretation. Think subjectively; open yourself to individual interpretation.

The question isn’t how do you avoid mistakes? It’s how do you find the good outcome from a mistake and handle the emotion as your reaction to the matter?

Tips

  • Allow a short mourning period. Acknowledge that the situation isn’t what you wanted or expected. Keep that time very short, but allow it.
  • Find the humor in the situation. Some are very serious, but there is often humor lurking in any situation.
  • Talk it out with a trusted friend or counselor. Getting things out in the open really purges the replays.
  • Toss around ideas for positive outcomes. Follow those ideas through to the conclusion. Allow yourself to wonder if those positive possibilities will happen instead of the negative possibilities. This is a great spot to pop out those, “What if?” questions as long as they are only focused on the positive side. It takes mental discipline to knock out the negatives. It helps to verbally agree with a friend or relative to point out those nosedives.

The shimmer of a sunstone is like all the things that go wrong, all the things that embarrass us. Sometimes what appears dull will shimmer with light. Let’s practice looking for the ways things have worked out for the good and are better from what we’ve learned.

Would you like to catch the other episodes on Graciousness?

Episode 18 — Courtesy: How do we get courtesy back?

Episode 19 — The Common Sense of Consideration

Episode 20 — Emotional Filters

EP — 20 Graciousness part 3 — Emotional Filters

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Iolite, the original sunglasses!

Iolite, the original sunglasses!

Graciousness part 3 — Filters

First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.—Matthew 5: 24b, NIV

The first known sunglasses used by man were slivers of iolite used by the Vikings to cross the sea and find the New World. The blue-violet stone can be held up in front of the sun to filter out the damaging rays. How the Vikings discovered this? I wish I knew. But for such a gorgeous stone to change the way you look at the sun changed the known world. As do some of the filters that change the way you look at the world.

What kind of filters do you use? Back up a moment and think about the different areas in your world that require filters. Air filters, furnace filters, water filters, oil filters, even vacuum filters all have common job descriptions. They filter out something to protect us. Then there are different levels of protection, from the hair catcher to the allergen trap to an air purifier that actually kills bacteria and viruses.

Sometimes those filters get clogged and must get changed or cleaned for better performance. Quite often, homeowners forget this pesky chore. Heating companies get frantic calls either at first freeze or the first sweltering day when furnaces and air conditioners no longer work.

It’s embarrassing for customers who think something is terribly wrong with their equipment to find a simple filter change would have avoided the whole expense. Left without the routine maintenance, a furnace can become so overworked trying to pull in air through a clogged filter that it will eventually break down as if the machine had emphysema.

Once the equipment no longer fires off, the serviceman has to perform a diagnostic procedure to learn the cause of the malfunction. Every diagnostic is different, but an experienced service technician has done a great deal of this type of work, which has allowed him to study different systems and increase his ability to solve the next problem.

  • Does your filter need cleaning or is it all clogged up with junk?
  • Do you need a personal diagnostic?

Angie’s Story

Mom near the end of her time on earth.

Mom near the end of her time on earth.

When my mom died, the hospice nurse confirmed the time of death. “She’s gone now.”

I stared up into the nurse’s face unable to comprehend the words, the very fear my mom had lived with for so long now a reality.

“Do you want me to start the directives?”

I felt the warmth of the palm above and the warmth below my palm. What did she mean? I looked down again at my mother’s gray face. Not gray from death. Gray because she’d been so close to death for so long.

Mom as a young lady. Quite a pretty woman.

Mom as a young lady. Quite a pretty woman.

Orange used to be her color. She wore it, painted her house and had matching pots and pans in orange. But for many months, and today, her color was gray. I’d become familiar with the pale gray of her face, the gray in her hair, and the gray hospital.

“Angela?”

I blinked.

“What would you like to do?”

“I don’t know.” Was I supposed to do something? My daughter sat beside me and held my hand. I noticed her warmth.

“You have instructions for your mom’s passing.” The nurse’s kind eyes looked right into mine. “Would you like to put them in motion?”

“I don’t know.” My heart sped up and skipped a few beats in the process. “I can’t hurt her. I’m afraid I’ll hurt her.”

“She can’t feel pain any more. She is no longer living.”

“Are you sure?” Somehow she could be wrong. I just knew it. How could she be alive one moment and not feeling the next?

“Would you like me to check for you?”

I nodded and she went. I traced bold red lines with my eyes up and down the table until she came back.

“Your mom is gone. She is really dead.” Soft and firm, “Angela, your mom has died. She can no longer feel pain. You have a plan where time counts. It’s your plan, and as next of kin, you have to say so. She is gone now.”

The nurse’s words unclogged my inaction as if she was my furnace guy who’d replaced a bad filter. As my furnace roared back to work, I had to set the plan in motion. Mom lived in fear. I wasn’t going to live that way.

Mom had a gift to give still and my job was to make sure it happened. “I do.” The same sacred words I’d spoken at the altar, yet they meant something completely different this time.

I led my family back in to say goodbye. “You need to listen to me, to what I am about to do for my mom because you will do this for me.” My voice caught as I looked at each of my children and my husband. “It’s hard and it takes courage.”

I made my wishes known right there and right then. “You will do this. When it is my time, you will help me donate my brain to this same study. They need to compare Grandma’s brain to someone in her immediate family. That leaves me.”

They all were stoic, eyes fastened on mine. My sons knew, my daughters knew, and my husband knew. “I need to know right now that if any one of you has to make this decision, that I can count on you to make it.”

They all nodded, not slow, not quick, but solemn. They nodded in strength of purpose and the power of agreement.

“Thank you. Tonight I’m going to make sure Grandma has the opportunity to leave a gift, and when it comes time, you are going to do the same for me. I want to make a difference.” The tears started then. I lifted my chin. “Now, please.”

Through the haze I saw the hospice nurse take out the written list of instructions for the brain donation. The list I’d researched, written, and provided. The list I’d made sure everyone had and could follow. At just before midnight, we woke the deputy chief medical examiner and called for transportation to the funeral home for mom’s body.

My mom and I would together participate in something much bigger than us. We are brain donors for the Brain Bank at McLean Hospital/Harvard for the on-going study of schizophrenia. We have a legacy to give for the generations to come. A legacy that could improve someone else’s physical body and/or their mental state. All excellent reasons. But what I hope to give is the chance to gain more wholesome, happy relationships. I hope Mom and I leave a legacy of love.

A legacy of love. Not something I’d thought possible even a few years earlier. I couldn’t have spoken of love and my mother in the same sentence. I only saw her through a filter of resentment. Resentment of her behavior, illness, and hurtful words. Resentment of all the loss in my life, the hardship, and the instability. Resentment of the crazy legacy.

Then God gave Mom over into my care for the last seven years of her life. As an adult, the childish filters began to open up and draw fresh air. As my mom sank deeper into dependence, I saw how fragile she was as fear-filled schizophrenia slammed her soul. I began to understand how courageous she’d been to battle those pirates. Compassion slipped in one day and cleaned out the filter of resentment.

  • Sometimes anger and resentment can clog up the ability to see another’s fragility. What would happen if you searched out that fragility in order to understand?
  • Are other emotions blocking your healthy, appropriate responses?

The problem comes when our head says one thing, but our hearts aren’t listening. It’s vital to understand how emotions take us out of rational thinking. Sure, decisions are easier to cope with ahead of time, but sometimes things happen without warning. How do you handle that?

It’s important to be aware of how our life filters affect our decisions. We filter assumptions and choices through our belief system. How we see things and what we believe about them come as much from our religious worldview as from our experience in the world and our family of origin. Our filters, or view of the world, create unwritten rules we don’t verbalize or realize exist. The easiest “hot button” to push? Breaking silent, unwritten rules.

Why are we so emotionally charged? Our emotions are preset in patterns based on past experience. The level of emotion in a household creates a filter for when emotion is good, bad, or at an acceptable level. Did family members speak with loud voices or quiet ones? Were the children allowed to join in the conversation or did they have to sit and wait? Chores, rules, and expressions of tradition influence the way each person thinks daily life happens.

All this can come together in huge clashes because unwritten rules filter how we receive input, our reactions, and subsequent behaviors. Most of the unwritten rules have no connection with the “right” way to do anything except that’s the way it’s been done before in the infamous “comfort zone”.

Unwritten rules are absorbed through observations of interaction between the people around us. These same unwritten expectations build an arsenal of misconceptions. Most people don’t even realize that they’re cemented into an immobile impasse, like the filthy furnace filter. No air is getting through to the furnace and the motor burns out, but the homeowners didn’t know to change it. They can’t figure out why the house is always cold. That “comfort zone” is a filter we need to change or our relationships will go cold.

The choices we make are based on assumptions that what is normal to us is normal to others. It isn’t. Ask any newlywed. The first argument rarely is over anything of lasting value. More often than not, the first argument is over an expectation from the family of origin. The couple needs to educate one another about their expectations, and then with both expectations out on the table, make a new decision based on new information. Change the filters to clear the air.

But what really happens? Accusations based on assumptions. Rarely does anyone ask the big why question: Why do you do that?

Resentment builds up where the vacuum of misconception lives. If one gets up the courage to ask, it tends to be in a harsh, accusatory tone that puts the other person on the defensive. The real answer is not often heard. Sometimes it’s not even known until the offender traces back to its origin. Yet we expect an immediate answer and for things to be done our way without considering another option. Taking the time to run a diagnostic, checking and testing through honest communication, saves both members of a relationship from new hurt, resentment, and anger.

Filtering out our fear, frustration, and misconceptions by getting educated helps us make informed, intelligent decisions about our lives rather than giving in to reactive emotions. Asking questions out of the desire to learn allows gentle tones and open discussion.

  • Information provides us with comfortable and confident decisions. But that choice is best made from a place of knowledge not assumption.

The intensity of our reactions comes from the weight or value we place on an interaction with others, much like the difference between the sentimental and actual value of gold and sterling silver. A beautiful heirloom passed down through your family, maybe even hundreds of years old, has significance in the stories that are part of its history. But when melted down for the financial value, these heirlooms often have much less monetary value than expected. But it isn’t the price that matters. It’s the weight of emotion stored in that collection.

We value life, relationships, material things, and sentiment and life experience at different levels. Some are more precious than others, including opinions and preconceived notions. Let’s find out how feelings create misconceptions.

  • Here’s an exercise for you to uncover unspoken rules:

Journal an intense argument you’ve experienced. What did you value in the argument? Find out by focusing only your side. What unwritten rules of yours do you think the other person broke?

Now focus on the other person’s comments only. Read through those, looking for unwritten rules you may have broken. Journal those.

You may find this difficult. You may need to trace back your own reactions to earlier in your life to discover why you reacted so strongly.

If it’s possible, find a time to share what you learned with the other party. Prepare mentally to listen for fragility and watch for unwritten rules they may not even be aware exist. Remember to be reconciled to your brother or sister as in Matthew 5:24. You can only control your part, not theirs. Release your desire to control the other person’s reaction. Reconciliation requires information to break the pattern of misconceptions.

Let’s practice recognizing old filters of preconceived notions and replacing them with beautiful new filters of an educated opinion. The more I know, the less I’ll fear.

Appreciation Moments:

Tina St. Claire Rice Thank you for your 5-star review of the upcoming release, The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection on Goodreads and Facebook.

Thank you, Tammy Gray, for reaching out to me on LinkedIn. I’m delighted with your invitation to write a blog post for you and will be doing that.

For the retweets and shares on Twitter and Facebook, thank you to so many friends. I’m stunned and overwhelmed.

A few listener favorite past episodes of Grace Under Pressure Radio:

Graciousness 1st episode

Teaching Confidence to our Daughters

Courage — Overcoming Specific Fears

Boundaries: No More Self-sabotage