What are feelings anyway?

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On the way to church recently my 7 year old daughter asked, “Momma, what are feelings?”

I started to say, “They’re how you feel.  I mean they are what you feel…I mean…ahhh!!!”

I couldn’t figure out how to define it without using the word “feel.”  I thought if I used the word emotion it would open up another definition discussion which I was ill-prepared to have.

Feelings.

(Just saying that word makes me think of that song…”Feelings, nothing more than feelings…”  Great. Now it’s stuck in my head.  And I apologize because now it’s probably stuck in your head too.)

I ended up saying, “Sweetie, feelings are the way you feel – like happy, sad, scared, excited…”  I think she understood.

I wish I understood feelings…those dreaded emotions.

Lately emotions have come up a lot.  I don’t even know if I should use the word lately in this sentence…I have emotions and they come up a lot (sometimes that’s an unfortunate thing).

I’ve been studying Philippians for the past couple of months.  This past week I was in the 4th chapter – Paul says, “rejoice in the Lord always.”

I had to ask, “What does rejoicing in the Lord always look like in my life?”

I think, for me, right now it is trusting despite my circumstances and my feelings and emotions.

I can really struggle with my emotions based on my circumstances.  Lately I seem to have tears in my eyes at odd times throughout any given day.

Yesterday my youngest daughter had a really bad day.  She was angry all day – slamming things and saying words like, “I wish you weren’t my mommy.”  She is a very difficult little person sometimes…there aren’t many things I can do to convince her to choose to be good.

She needs love and affirmation a lot.  Sometimes it’s exactly what she needs and exactly what I don’t believe she deserves and it isn’t what I really want to do either…I want the time out to end all time outs! (for her and me)

But my little girl was a ragged mess yesterday and I decided to love on her instead of endless timeouts and taking-tos.  She wasn’t perfect afterwards, said but she was oh so much better.  We were both better.

Instead of being crushed by her behavior and my fears about parenting her, I focused on the good in my daughter.  And there is a lot of good under the feisty little girl she so often shows me.

But without any warning, while I was holding her, I felt overcome by the massive amount of things in my life that are stealing my joy.

Can something steal my joy?

I think something can definitely try to mess with my joy – but my joy isn’t about my circumstances or the people in my lives…or even my feelings.  Ultimately, my joy is about Christ.

Right before Paul says to rejoice in the Lord, he addresses an issue between two women in the church.  I believe maybe Paul’s point it to remind them that Jesus is more important than any issues they have in their lives, or difficult people they have to deal with daily.

So if God commands we rejoice, we have to be able to do it right?  God doesn’t call us to do anything that He will not enable us to do.

But when tears spring to my eyes and I feel completely overcome by all the unknowns, the struggles and the fears, I’m not close to rejoicing…I’m close to crumbling. It’s such a struggle to rejoice.  I don’t feel like rejoicing…I feel like crying, wallowing, complaining, moaning, and woe-is-me-ing.  I feel afraid, concerned, frustrated and anxious.

It’s those fears and anxieties that keep me up at night.  I’m in a season of sleeplessness – which I have to say has arrived at an incredibly inconvenient time.  I have a lot to do.

Last night was particularly difficult. I was feeling completely undone.  Thousands of thoughts, fears and feelings tumbled through my head and heart.  Sleep was elusive.  I got up at 3 am and did school work…I wish instead that I had put my face in the Word.  Had I done that I’m sure I’d have had a better chance of resting.

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Instead I read about assessing student achievement – 10 pages on how to construct a multiple-choice test…seriously how was I NOT asleep after that!?!  And when I finally decided to try the sleep thing again my 6 year old was ready to start her day…with me.

While she colored, I did more homework. Until I received a text from a dear friend which reminded me that God wants me in the Word.  Duh.

So I opened up my Bible study and let me share the verses God gave me.

Psalm 55:22 Cast all your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 41:10   fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 43:1-2 Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 …be content with what I have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  So we can confidently say, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

It was a soothing balm to my weary heart.  I couldn’t help but be amazed at God’s love for me.  He asks me to do these things that are all wonderful things – do you know what I mean?  It’s like a parent saying, “Hey, your bag looks heavy, sweetheart.  May I carry it for you?  Let me have that and you just follow me.  Don’t be afraid.  Let me lead you. I love you and I will take care of you.”

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And not only does He say all those things, He promises these:

He will sustain me…strengthen, provide for, prepare, direct and establish me.

He will not permit me to be moved.

He will keep me in perfect peace.

He will be with me.

He will be my God.

He will strengthen me.

He will help me.

He will uphold me with his righteous right hand.

He has redeemed me.

He has called me by name.

He has made me his own.

He will be with me.

He is my helper.

He will never leave me

He will never forsake me.

He will exalt me.

He cares for me.

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So which one of those stood out to you?  I’m hard pressed to pick one. Throughout any day I need to remind myself of at least one of these promises of God.

In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep or in the middle of the day when I feel on the verge of tears or a nervous breakdown (or both), I get so frustrated that I’m struggling with fear or anxious thoughts.  I know better.  I know the Truth. Why do I struggle so?

Lord, why?  I know you.  I’m in your Word.  I’m seeking godly counsel.  I’m trusting you for the day…or am I?

How do I live in the reality of what those verses tell me…those things that I believe but can’t seem to live?

I don’t know yet.  Although I will say that right now there is just so much and I find myself feeling similarly to days following my ex-husband’s abandonment.  That beautifully awful place where I feel such sorrow and fear but I see God meeting me at every turn.

I know Him better in these moments.

I’m at a place where I understand the living today idea.  I can only live today – I can’t live tomorrow or a month or a year or 10 down the road.  Just today.  That is all God asks me to do.

So I’m trying to live faithfully in today.  It’s challenging, but there’s a relief in it.

I’m trying to figure out how to put it into words.  It’s definitely a way of thinking for me.  I’m purposefully keeping my head in today…just trying to work on the massive amount of stuff that today has for me.  Honestly there is plenty there to keep me occupied…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So how in the world did I get from the feelings question in the car to this?  Feelings…they do take us to interesting and unexpected places. J

I think this is a topic we will all be coming back to a lot.  How to really trust God.

I think He has given us the answer already —

  • cast my burden on Him,
  • keep my mind fixed on him,
  • trust him,
  • be unafraid,
  • don’t be dismayed, discouraged, distressed, or troubled
  • be content, and
  • say confidently, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

“I will not leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous…”  Joshua 1:5-6

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Lord, I don’t presume to have the answers to life’s struggles, but I do have You.  And I know that that is always enough.  Father, my feelings cause me such angst sometimes and I don’t know how to handle them or all that You have allowed in my life.  I want to cast my burdens and cares on you.  I want to throw them at your feet and leave them there.  I have such a hard time leaving them there Lord.  Maybe if I could just keep my eyes on You and not look down at them again, they would stay put at your feet.  Lord, like the father begging Jesus for healing for his child, I’m crying out to you, “I believe, help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9: 14-24)  I trust You Father.  I want to face my future unafraid and untroubled.  Please Lord, help me be strong and bold and courageous.  You are my helper!  I will not fear!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Somebody Save Me Please

IMG_1600What if this life is about more than surviving?  Have you ever heard that saying about thriving instead of just surviving?  I don’t know what I think about that quote right now.

What is thriving anyway?

Is that even possible?

I don’t use the word thrive very often…I don’t even use the word survive very often.  I’m kind of in triage mode – that’s the phrase I use a lot.

Just living in triage mode…the most immediate disaster gets my attention first…the loudest complaint, the biggest boo-boo, the nearest deadline, and sometimes the easiest fix…if I’m honest.

And sometimes, living in triage mode means that the most important stuff doesn’t get met…it isn’t a good place to live.

Believe me.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get out of it, but it appears to me right now that the only way is to walk through it…sometimes it seems like it’s getting darker rather than lighter though.

Darker?  I don’t want to do darker….bring on the spotlight!  Goodness, I’d take a flashlight…the little $1 one from Walmart.  Just a little light for the path again…

I’m tripping over angry, falling over frustrated, crashing into overwhelmed, and washing out over weariness.

Honestly, if I stub my toe one more time…

But what if…what if I’m called to something more than thriving or surviving?

What if I’m called to something not even in the same category?  Something radical?

Something like blessing?

What if my life is about blessing?

Blessing God….glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

How do I do that in this?

This messy life.  This life full of tumult and tears.  This sleepless, exhausting life.  This life full of endless to-dos, responsibilities, expectations, and needs.  This life…

This life full of children…noisy, scruffy, feisty children who I love desperately.

This life full of home…untidy, laundry-full, dishes-full, wonky-floored home that I’m ever so thankful for.

This life of work…stressful, endless demands, difficult situation work that provides for my family.

This life of finances…busted budgets, fearful feelings, and exorbitant expenses that God always seems to work through.

This life of family…missing, needing, and loving family.

This life of friends….missing, needing and loving friends too.

This life of busyness…frantic, never-ceasing activity that blesses my children with fellowship, encouragement, and strength.

This life…this life is full of blessings.  It’s how I look at them that seems to make the difference.  It’s what I pay attention to…lately, I’ve pretty much only paid attention to my troubles.

Even my blessings have often seemed like HUGE burdens more than anything else lately.  Ever felt that way?

No wonder I can’t get my head in the game.

No wonder I’m always feeling on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I keep trying to do all this stuff in my own strength…as if to prove that I can.  Maybe to show myself worthy of…I don’t even know what.  Worthy of love? Worthy of admiration?  Just plain worthy?

Maybe I just want to be strong.  So often I feel so weak, but honestly if someone wanted to step in and “save” me from all this stress I’d take it.

Wait a minute…

There are some verses about that…

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

I have a Savior and He says to give it all to Him and the burden I get back is easy and light.

Oh my goodness!  How awesome does easy and light sound right now?!?

So practically speaking, how do I do easy and light when all heck seems to be breaking loose every other day in some area of my life…(wish I was exaggerating.)

All I can say is that I think it all has to do with my focus and my attitude.

If I can please remember that the Lord loves me and that HE DOES HAVE A PLAN in all of this and HE does want to help, provide, and care for me.

If I can please acknowledge with my attitude that Jesus is my Savior in all areas of my life.  He cares about everything.  He didn’t just check off the Savior box when He died on the cross.  He is the Savior of every second of my day.

Why can’t I live like I know that?  The gospel isn’t just for getting me into heaven…it’s for me every day.  It’s not just for life after death…it’s for life before death.  It’s for a life of thriving not just surviving (there I said it) not just hanging by a thread until heaven.

It’s a life of blessings because I have a big God and wonderful Savior.

Lord, show me how to live that way.  Show me how to step out of this triage mode into faith mode.  Please open my eyes to the blessings around me and help me to stop just focusing on what I see as the mess of my world.  Thank you Jesus for being the Savior of my soul and my situation.  I love you Lord.

What Happens Afterwards?

ImageIt’s been a weird week or so.  Do you know what I mean?

I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s been a little off.

I think I know part of the reason and it’s quite surprising to me.  Particularly because I thought I was kinda past all this stuff.

You know all healed up and such.

But lately, I’m spittin’ mad…angry…frustrated….even a little bit bitter.

And even more than all of those…I’m surprised.

I thought I was over all those awful emotions.

I thought I was past that place

…outta that pit.

But I think there is still some climbing, crawling and running that needs to happen.

Still some growing

learning

and trusting…

I’ve had friends tell me that I need to not use my husband’s adultery, abandonment, and our subsequent divorce as such a huge reference point in my life.

My answer has always been, “????????”

‘Cause it’s pretty much feels like one of the biggest things to happen in my life…and it’s the most recent biggest thing…and it impacted so much and so many and so deeply.

You know those big events like salvation, marriage, children…those things you build upon.

They are all the beginning of something wonderful.

Divorce, it’s just the end.

There isn’t much to build upon there…

in fact, what IS there, is nothing you’d want to build upon anyway, right?

Sadness, regret, anger, betrayal, crisis, etc.

Someone recently said to me, “Divorce can be the beginning of something better.”

I guess so.

But it isn’t because divorce is a great beginning; it’s what God can do afterwards.

But after what?

After divorce?  After a while?  After the stages of grief have all been cycled through…again?

Please don’t get me wrong I’m not asking that in a rotten way…I’m pondering.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  Psalm 119:15

I guess I should tell you a bit more about my situation…well, my thoughts on my situation.

Those feelings of anger, frustration and bitterness are toward my ex-husband…and he absolutely deserves it BUT it isn’t right and it isn’t good and it isn’t what I want to be feeling.

 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.  Proverbs 14:29

I forgave him for what he did to me, to our children and to our family.  And although I know forgiveness is a process (sometimes a long process), I thought I had finished the process.  I thought I was on the other side.

There have been many things to forgive since the original hurt, and those things have indeed been forgiven.

  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? 

As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

But, honestly, I’ve been thinking all along that much of what I’ve struggled with in the past 5 plus years has been anger and frustration at those continued dumb things the man does.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Maybe I underestimated the whole forgiveness thing.  Maybe I didn’t understand completely how forgiveness needs to be a “completely” thing.

Forgiveness is definitely something I have offered and done.  I know I have…without a doubt.

I guess this is where the whole faith thing comes in.

The thing with forgiveness is…well, it doesn’t necessarily make all the hurt go away.  I forgave and I still hurt. ..a lot.

And maybe that hurt won’t ever completely go away…it’s pretty deep…but does that mean I haven’t really forgiven?

And if I have forgiven, can I still feel angry at the offending person?

Yes, yes I can.

But should I?

I don’t believe so.

The best thing I can do for ME is forgive and move forward.

The answer is to let go of the anger, frustration, and bitterness.

And I’m thinking I need to go read the chapter on anger and bitterness in my book, because maybe I can remind myself of how I got through this before…  I wish I was kidding.

I definitely don’t want to feel fussy forever.

I want to be able to move forward without anger and bitterness.  I want to not give that burden to my children.  I just want to give my burdens to the Lord – He can handle them.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you, He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Part of being in this funky place has been that I haven’t been able to hide from my children my thoughts and feelings about their dad.  I apologized to my oldest daughter the other night.

She said, “Yeah, it’s been weird.  But it’s ok Mom.”

Well, I guess I can take one positive think from that – I have done pretty well with it for over 5 years!

But I don’t want to be a mom who weighs down my children with my baggage.

So what am I going to do about it?

1st I’m going to pray.  (I’m noticing a theme in my life – pray first!!!)

Pray for God to give me His perspective on things.

What is His perspective on things?  Well, one thing that has helped in the past is to see my husband as a broken, sinful man in need of a Savior…just like I’m a sinful woman in need of my Savior.  To recognize where he is…and that like David in Psalm 51, his sin is against God.  God will handle it.  I don’t need to.

Pray for God to give me the strength to control my tongue..

Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;

let him seek peace and pursue it.  1 Peter 3:10-11

Oh golly, is this gonna be a big prayer request!  I’ve struggled so much lately with my comments and my facial expressions.  I can’t seem to keep my thoughts to myself…my angry thoughts that is.  And the sad part is that those angry thoughts don’t serve any purpose but to wound innocent people around me, particularly my children.

That’s the dumb part about anger and bitterness – it really doesn’t impact the offender very much, if at all.  It just hurts you…and me.  It just hurts the people we most want to protect from further hurt.  Our beautiful children.

So, friends, I’m gonna do something about this angry, bitter woman I see sometimes in the mirror.

She is not welcome anymore.

I don’t think I can just make a decision in this post and change myself instantaneously, but I can start the process…golly another process…maybe I should rephrase that…I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to start the process in me.

I know that only God can make this better in me.  I know that only God can change the hurt, anger, and bitterness into something much better.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:1-3

My part…my part is to pray, to seek Him, to read His love letter to me, to counsel with friends, and to fight for a better attitude.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.  Psalm 105:4

 

I lift my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121