About Karen Jordan

Karen Jordan encourages others to tell the stories that matter most as an author, speaker, writing instructor, and blogger at karenjordan.net. A native Texan, Karen now resides in Arkansas with her husband Dan, near their two children and seven grandchildren.

Staying on Course

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I failed to consider the length of the trail when I started walking it.

Temptations and expectations. I had hoped that a two-mile, brisk walk along a wooded path overlooking a beautiful golf course near my home would clear the cobweb of worry from my mind. 

Instead, my impulsive, adventuresome nature ignored the signpost, describing this four-mile loop through the challenging hills and valleys in Central Arkansas.

I knew the path would eventually lead me back to the trailhead. So, when I noticed the third mile marker, I decided to press on. I assumed that going forward would be faster than turning around and returning to where I started. Plus, after investing so much energy, I wanted to finish the course.

Confusion and distractions. I tried to determine my location on my cell phone’s GPS. But I couldn’t locate the trail on my screen, and the diverging paths confused me. So, I just kept walking.

I stopped from time to time to shoot a few pictures. These gave me some short breaks  from the summertime heat and rest for my throbbing feet, as I avoided the pesky bugs, spider webs, and poison ivy sprigs at the edge of the forest.

Photo/KarenJordanElation. By the end of the trail, my worries had  abandoned me, and the strain of the long walk through the woods subsided. Refreshed, I paused by the lake and enjoyed a bottle of cold water.

I also experienced a surge of self-confidence when I reached my destination. I knew that I wouldn’t have attempted such a feat in the summer heat if I’d known the length and difficulty of the trail.

Looking back on the experience, I realize that I’ve learned this lesson in other areas of my life—marriage, parenting, academics, and writing for publication.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made … By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back … So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. (Phil. 3:12-15 MSG)

Are you tempted to quit right now!? I challenge you to focus on God and allow Him to guide you with His promises.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly … And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:15-17 MSG).

What helps you stay on track when you’re tempted to get off course?

YouTube/YamahaBill (Disney’s Hercules – “Go the Distance”)
Photos/KarenJordan

Overwhelmed by Your “To Do” List?

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“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it” (George Bernard Shaw).

Buried beneath a mountain of paperwork? Paralyzed by some impending deadlines? Dreaming of a week on the beach?

I considered a “real job” until I read the job description: “Ability to work independently and multitask.”

I love to work independently. But I tend to hyperfocus most of the time. And I struggle with multitasking all of the time. So, I passed on that job opportunity.

I’m not so sure multitasking works well for my daughter Tara, either. She seems frustrated at times when I call as she prepares dinner—holding a screaming baby, listening to a whining preschooler, dealing with two squabbling little boys, and talking on the phone, all at the same time.

I can’t even concentrate on my writing projects at times with dishes in the sink or a hamper of dirty laundry waiting on me. And if the phone rings, I lose focus completely. Then, when I start worrying about all the details of my life, writer’s block paralyzes me.

Revelation. I woke up early one morning overwhelmed with my “to do” list. So, I decided to take an early morning walk at sunrise.

As I walked down the street toward the lake, the view of the sunrise surprised me. And I forgot about all of my worries as I soaked in the beauty of the dawn. I tried to capture the moment with my camera.

After pausing a few minutes to admire the view, I continued my walk. Most mornings, I enjoy listening to the sounds of nature as I walk the trails near my home. But since I took another route to the lake, I decided to listen to my favorite radio station.

Imagine my delight as I encountered the lyrics to “Light Up the Sky” by the Afters: “You light up the sky to show me that you are with me ….”.

In an interview with cbn.com, Matt Fuqua, vocalist/guitarist for the Afters, says, “The story behind Light Up the Sky is a part of the story of all of us … [It’s] a picture of what it looks like when you make it through [a] really challenging time, and you look back and see how God was using all of those things for good and that you were never alone.”

Reflection. God drew my attention to the majesty of His creation as I observed the heavenly canopy of the sunrise reflected on Lake Cortez, glowing through the trees near my home the next morning.

Did God light up the sky to show me that He was with me?

I couldn’t deny it. He opened my eyes, and I could see evidence of His Presence all around me.


How has God revealed Himself to you?

Photo/KarenJordan
YouTube/theaftersvideos (“Light Up the Sky” by The Afters)

 

I Wish I Could Google God

Photo/KarenJordanIf only I could “google” God for answers to life’s problems. Then, I could just type a question and get one right answer—the Truth.

As a writer, I don’t always come up with the best questions to ask to find the solutions I need. And at times, I don’t know what to pray when I’m burdened by life challenges.

So, I wish I could enter a word or phrase into my Internet search engine, trusting that God would grant me the exact direction I needed.

As I share in my family’s struggle with their painful issues, I don’t even pretend to know how to help them manage their lives. How can I intercede for someone else, when I don’t know how to pray about my own problems?

Many days, I can’t even express the concerns of my heart. But I’ve discovered some powerful promises in the Bible that help me navigate through the turbulent waters of my worry life.

How can we find rest from our stressful lives?

… Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 NLT)

 How can we know that God hears our prayers?

 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. (1 John 5:15)

What if we don’t know what to pray?

 … the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Rom. 8:26-27)

What if you don’t believe that you can hear from God? God’s Word answers, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me … ” (John 10:25 NIV).

What are you worried about today? Philippians 4:6 encourages us, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns” (MSG).

I still wrestle with how and what to pray at times. I am thankful for the recorded Word of God. It serves as a lifeboat that I can rely on when unexpected storms roll in, or when I need to pray for others who are drowning in their ocean of worries.

Father, we need you, but we don’t know what to say.
Thank You for Your Spirit, Who guides us when we pray.
Holy Spirit, intercede—You alone know our needs. Amen.

Will you share a promise from God’s Word that has helped you find direction?

Watch Your Words: A Mother’s Day Reflection from Nature

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Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  (James 1:9 NLT).

I glanced up the hill behind our home, and I had eye contact with a doe as she watched over her fawn. As I continued to water my wilting tomato plants on my wooden deck, the doe stepped closer to check my reaction to her movements.

I remained painfully still while watering my plants. Any sudden movement from me would have caused the doe and her fawn to scamper beyond my sight.

A few minutes later, I turned my head to redirect my hose toward another plant. When I looked back up, I saw the deer walking quietly away from me, grazing on the grass and plucking leaves from the low-hanging branches.

Without any words, I understood this message from nature, loud and clear, “We feel safe here if you don’t make any sudden moves to threaten us.”

Reality check. As I observed the doe and her fawn, I recalled a recent conflict with my daughter Tara, mother of five children.

How many times have I chased away my children with my impulsive words or quick temper? Too many to count.

Without outlining the nitty-gritty details of my personal life, I’ll “plead the Fifth Amendment” here—on the grounds that my answer may be self-humiliating.

Good word. So, I’ll just quote the wisdom of the Bible.

And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice. (Eph. 6:4 LB)

Am I cautious with my movements and reactions as I relate to my own children and grandchildren? I’m working on that one.

After I expressed my concerns and expectations to my daughter about a situation with one of her children, I regretted my hasty response and unsolicited advice. So, I offered a heartfelt apology, hoping and praying for her forgiveness. I realized that my emotional reactions often bring unintended consequences.

Reflection. Sometimes our silence speaks more clearly than our words. I know my voice can scare away an animal or bird, but sometimes I forget that just one inappropriate word can also repel a child, friend, or loved one.

We often use our written and spoken words to express our thoughts and feelings. But at times, we fail to guard our choice of words or listen to others. As a writer, I know the importance of editing my words. But often, I forget to consider the power of my spoken words, and I fail to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (Jms. 1:9 NLT)

When the doe appeared in my backyard again, I knew to be quiet. Opening a squeaky door or stepping on the dry, parched leaves would propel her to run to a safer place with her fawn.

As I watched the doe scamper away with her young a few minutes later, I thanked God for the lessons He sends me in nature for my own family and for my writing life. I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for being exposed to His truth expressed in nature and in my everyday life. Then, I asked Him to help me release my children and all of my expectations once again.

What concerns and expectations do you hope to release to God? 

Embracing Your True Identity as a Writer

Photo/KarenJordanAs I watch my grandsons, Ethan and Zach, make silly faces dressed in their costumes, I realize how much I act like them.

At times, I pretend to be someone else, wearing a mask to disguise my true identity.

Masked crusaders. Zach and Ethan often pretend to be superheroes with superhuman powers, fighting against crime or evil. But even though they enjoy their make-believe world for a while, they soon shed their costumes. Bored with one adventure, they put on other outfits–such as pirate costumes–and search for a hidden treasure or sail off to conquer another ship. Later, they may be fully decked out in their new football or soccer uniforms.

True identity. As a writer, when I masquerade as somebody or something else, I tend to lose my focus on reality. And with this cover-up, I sometimes unintentionally deny my true identity.

I may be tempted to hide behind a cloak of self-confidence, trying to compensate for my weaknesses and failures. Or I try to put on another mask to temporarily gain acceptance and approval.

Self-deception. My self-deception always directs me down the wrong path, leading me down a new road. And I find myself in places that I never intended to go. When I choose an identity that God never expects me to wear, I make regrettable mistakes and commitments. And I focus on my faults, instead of my blessings.

I’ve tried on the masks of SuperMom, SuperNonnie, SuperWife, SuperTeacher, and even SuperWriter. And I’ve suffered from stress and burnout. Then, I feel like a SuperNobody. When I try to become any of those super-characters in my own strength–instead of depending upon God for direction and strength–I fail miserably.

As I continue my journey as a writer, I pray that I will embrace my true identity and remember who I really am “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-14). As a Christ-follower, I am unconditionally accepted and loved by God because of what Christ did, not because of what I can do for Him or for others.

101031.gkids copyI also plan to model my faith and beliefs for my grandchildren, so they will also know when to put their masks and costumes away and discover their own identities “in Christ.”

What has helped you find your true identify as a writer?

Photos/KarenJordan

Frozen in Time: Writing and Healing

Photo/LeahSchultzHealing … is change from a singular self, frozen in time by a moment of unspeakable experience, to a more fluid, more narratively able, more socially integrated self. (Writing and Healing, Charles Anderson & Marian M. MacCurdy)

These words challenged my heart. Am I “frozen in time”?

The writing process helps me work through the painful trauma of my “unspeakable” experiences. It enables me to view my story from a more objective viewpoint, melting my frozen numbness, offering me hope beyond the icy boundaries of emotional bondage.

Helpful process. When I write about traumatic events, I often sense fear closing in on me like the twisted, frozen branches of a tree—wrapping its bone-chilling claws around me, choking the inspiration right out of me.

When I work on certain writing projects—like my book proposals—I freeze. I can’t control my thoughts, and chaos emerges, stealing my creative energy and organizational skills.

I try to forget some things for fear of stirring up painful memories, but they resurface when I least expect them. Often something unrelated triggers a memory—like a smell, a song, a picture, a person, or a place. Then, panic sets in again. And I freeze from the memory, unable to cope, until I regain control of my thoughts and reactions.

Healing narratives. Sometimes I‘m not sure how to begin composing my healing narratives. But I know the writing process will bring restoration. So I just start writing, even if I don’t know where the process will take me.

Do you fear writing certain projects? Are the stories too painful to consider? Do you fear the memories will trigger hidden emotional scars? Can we escape being “frozen in time”? Yes!

Hopeful vision. I long to write my stories without fear of a panic attack rooted in painful memories. But sometimes the writing process seems impossible. Luke 1:37 promises, “… nothing is impossible with God” (NLT).

I’ve observed the power of writing and healing as a writing instructor. Many students seem compelled, like I am, to write their own gut-wrenching narratives. And many of those writers come out of their secret hiding places, free from their emotional bondage. They experience change and healing—“to a more fluid, more narratively able, more socially integrated self.” And they begin to live new stories, delivered from their “frozen in time” memories.

As I write my healing narratives, I pray that I have the faith and courage to tell the stories that matter most and encourage others to experience the power of writing and healing.

What stories have you written that have brought healing to you and others?

Photo/LeahSchultz

Living on Easy Street

Photo/TaraRossBut easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. (Phil. 3:19 MSG)

I used to think that I wanted to live on Easy Street. You know, where you could have anything you want, anytime you want it.

Thankfully, the Lord knows what I need, and it’s not always the way I want.

In fact, I’ve noticed many people who seem to enjoy all the material possessions that they want, but they lack what they really need. They may even boast that they “have it all.” But a closer inspection might expose the truth about their situation. Many of them pay a big price for riches, fame, and beauty.

Dead-end street. I’ve discovered that there is much more to life than focusing on myself. Talk about a dead-end street!

What if I could attain all the world has to offer? Can I take riches and fame with me when I die?

What if I could have a dramatic makeover and become the most beautiful woman in the world? Could I maintain that beauty forever as my body ages?

What if I wrote a best-selling book? Would that be enough?

Would any of those successes last for eternity?

Priorities. What do I need to focus on in my life? If I knew I had only a short time to live, how could I determine my priorities?

No one really wants to consider these provocative questions. But often, I need a reality check, so I can bring my head out of the clouds to focus on the right things.

So, I’ve decided not to dream about Easy Street any longer, because the most important things in life are not just about me.

Wisdom. Every stage in life brings new challenges, changes, and blessings. But not everyone gains wisdom with age. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (Jms. 1:5 NIV).

Do you need wisdom as you face the unfolding challenges of your life? Are you struggling to define your priorities and set goals? Would a new directive for your life help?

I’ve chosen to stop desiring Easy Street and focus on a new vision with an eternal purpose.

… there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him (Phil. 3:20-21 MSG).

How did you determine your priorities this year? How has your focus changed over the years?

Photo/TaraRoss

Reflections from a Songbird

Photo/KarenJordan

When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. (E. O. Wilson) 

“Silly bird! Why are you pecking on the window?”

“She’s defending her territory,” my husband Dan surmised.

We watched in amazement as the female cardinal, fooled by her own image, continued to swoop down—over and over again—attacking her reflection in the window.

Dan snickered. “I know you’ll find a story here.” Then, he closed his eyes and dozed off in front of the TV.

I turned my attention back to my laptop and whined, “I’ve got to get this blog post written.”

Dan mumbled from his recliner, “Why don’t you give yourself a break?”

I agreed under my breath. “I AM taking a break! I’m sitting here with you, watching a movie.”

I needed rest. But I stared at my never-ending “to do” list. I felt the pressure of some impending writing deadlines and speaking commitments, along with our holiday plans. The weight of my schedule and expectations pushed me beyond my comfort zone.

Dan interrupted my thoughts. “I’m just saying, you’ve had a lot on your plate lately.”

“Thanks for the reminder,” I grumbled. I took a deep breath, trying to focus on my project and forget about my failures and limitations.

My head ached. My heart fluttered. I felt short of breath. Oh, no—not another panic attack! Red flag!

I closed my eyes. Focus on breathing. Inhale. Exhale. REST. Remember, “ … The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything …” (Phil. 4:5-6 NIV).

How do I NOT be anxious? “ … in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (6-7).

Like the songbird, I continued to attack my own image, focusing on my worries instead of the truth revealed in the mirror of God’s Word.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like (Jms 1:23 NIV).

I took another deep breath and exhaled. “That’s enough!”

“What … what did I do?” Dan muttered in his sleep.

Realizing that Dan thought I was fussing at him, I sighed. “I’m just talking to that crazy bird.”

I turned again to face the songbird, still flapping and responding to her reflection. “Silly bird!”

What experiences have you had in beating yourself up lately?

Photo/KarenJordan
YouTube/KarenJordan

Writing Down Our Faith Stories

Photo/TaraRossIn the Psalms, David expresses this divine purpose for writing our faith stories.

Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done. So that people not yet born will praise him. (Ps. 102:18 GNT)

What has the Lord done for you? Do you have stories about God’s intervention?

God expressed His love to humanity with the gift of His Son, Jesus.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (John 3:16 MSG)

Have you ever considered how much God loves you? I never really did, until the birth of my only son, Adam. I cannot fathom the love that it takes to sacrifice your only son, so that others might live. I’m sure many parents of soldiers come close to knowing how that feels, and I love to read their inspiring stories.

Someone once challenged me to ask God to show me how much He loved me. I believe God can speak to us. He speaks to me every day—through His Word, prayer, worship, people, and His beautiful creation. But I had never asked God how much He loved me.

So, I shut my eyes in prayer and asked, Lord, how much do you love me?

The answer I received still seems too intimate to share, for fear of being misunderstood and judged. I did not hear an audible voice. I just caught a little glimpse of Heaven, where God promises,

He will wipe every tear from (my) eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things (would be) gone forever. (Rev. 21:4 NLT)

When I faced the death of both of my parents, this vision of heaven brought comfort to my grieving heart.

I challenge you to ask the Lord that same question, Lord, how much do you love me?

Then, listen quietly. And be sure to write down your story.

God told His Story to the world when He sent His Son—the Word of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14 NIV)

Jesus told His stories (or parables) to teach us “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 13:6).

Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. (Luke 18:1 MSG)

Is there a biblical mandate for sharing our stories, especially our faith events?

In Acts 1:8, we read this charge from Christ to His followers,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (NLT)

What stories are you telling about your life? Or rather … what stories are you not telling? What about your faith stories? Who can write them, but you?

I hope you will consider writing down some of your faith stories as you celebrate Christmas this year.

What faith stories have you written down? I hope you’ll share one of your stories in the comment space below.


YouTube/twofiress (“I Love to Tell the Story” – Alan Jackson)

Photo/TaraRoss 

Choosing Thanksgiving

Photo/KarenJordanAs the autumn leaves began to fall this year, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel very thankful. So, I asked God to change my viewpoint as I focused on this Thanksgiving season.

In the past, I struggled with similar emotions, like love, forgiveness, and hope.

Love. After 40-plus years of marriage, I know that love must be a choice in every relationship. Our emotions and feelings ebb and flow with time. But as we invite God to intervene, He helps us navigate through the seasons of life.

Forgiveness. How can we release our anger and bitterness when we can’t forget the offenses? Impossible! That kind of forgiveness requires a divine source. But the Bible encourages us to offer ourselves and others the same forgiveness that Christ provides for us. And as we choose to remember what He’s done for us, He enables us to forgive ourselves and others.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13 NIV).

Hope. In the past, I’ve been guilt-ridden when shame covered me like a dark, heavy cloak. I lost hope and succumbed to despair and depression. But when I choose to seek God and embrace His Truth, I experience His hope and peace. Hebrews 10:23 says to embrace hope, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Thanksgiving. Today, I choose to give thanks. Often holiday seasons bring painful memories and cloud my vision of God’s blessings. But as I confess my ingratitude and ask God to change my focus, He always offers His promises.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, notice four powerful strategies that can help us when our circumstances and emotions distract our focus on God’s blessings: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

  1. “Rejoice always …” (16). First, this passage reminds us to rejoice, even if that choice seems impossible. In Mark 10:27, we observe the disciples struggling with a seemingly impossible teaching. But “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’” (NIV).This message is repeated in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
  2. “… pray continually …” (17). The Bible also teaches us to pray all the time, in every situation. Philippians 4:5-6 reminds us, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
  3. “ … give thanks in all circumstances …” (18). Notice my emphasis of the words “with thanksgiving” in the previous passage. Again, the scripture tells us to give thanks in every situation.
  4. “ … for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (18). Why rejoice? Why pray? Why give thanks? This verse answers these questions for me. Philippians 4: 7 offers this promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today, I choose to give thanks, even if my circumstances never change. And I plan to begin by focusing on my blessings.

YouTube/LoveOneAnother2011 (Laura Story “Blessings”)
Photo/KarenJordan

What strategies help you as you enter into this season of thanksgiving and celebration of God’s blessings?