What are feelings anyway?

photo (9)

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.

photo (8)

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.”

photo 4

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.

photo (10)

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

photo 5

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.

Do You Transition Well?

christmas tree

It’s been five years and still I struggle with transitions.

I would have thought by now there’d be no problem whatsoever when my ex-husband picked up our children.

And yet…there is

There is no conflict between him and me…no issues of arguing or glaring or anything…it’s just the transition.

It’s not like I even think about it.  It just IS awkward.

And tonight was no different.

My ex-husband is often late and no matter how hard I try to get my kids organized there is always a measure of chaos when he arrives.

Even though he’s late we can’t seem to be ready.

Tonight was no exception.

Let me set up the scene for the disaster.

It was our only night for my children and me to decorate our tree together because of school, work and bedtime schedules.  And because it was their night with their dad we had about an hour to do it.

I was ready.  Dinner was made.  All the boxes of decoration had been brought up.  The stage was set for a lovely hour of decorating.

And we had a lot of fun even though not all the children were excited to be decorating.  My 7 year old escaped outside to play with the neighbors, my 12 year old had a very difficult time getting his face away from his IPod, and my 16 year old lasted about 15 minutes before she needed food.  It ended up being my 6 year old and me decorating with my 19 year old keeping us entertained.  A tad goofy but still good!

As our hour to decorate became an hour and a half, my little girls worried they were going to miss a special math and science event at their school.  They’d been talking about it for weeks.  I should probably have just taken them on time, but we had so much to do and I thought they would enjoy doing it with their dad.

When their dad did arrive, it seemed like everything just fell apart…including me.

My oldest daughter was up in her room doing her hair and makeup.  A bit on the bad timing side of things and absolutely unnecessary – she’s beautiful.

My shoeless middle son was frantically looking for his IPod which my oldest son had hidden (with my blessing).

My 7 year old was ready and at her father’s car almost before it stopped.  She wanted to get to school fast!  They were already 45 minutes late.

My 6 year old was shoeless and decided to redo her hair…only she can’t redo her hair.  She’s at the age where she can mess it up really well but absolutely not fix it.

Then my 7 year old came back in because the tinfoil hat she needed to wear to the school event was tearing.  She was close to tears.

As I was searching for tape to fix the hat, I glanced around and realized that my teenagers hadn’t done any of the things I’d asked them to do.

It just seemed like everything went kablooey.

I know I’m probably not sufficiently portraying the level of chaos in those few moments, but I figure you can catch the “feel” of the house regardless of my poor description.

Everyone going in different directions, lots of emotions, and dad waiting in the driveway.

I just wish I could keep calm, cool, and collected.  (Well, cool might be a stretch…at least according to my teenagers! :)!!)

I got annoyed with my youngest pulling all her hair clippies out.  I was frustrated that the few things I’d asked my middle son and high school daughter to do had not been done.  I was disappointed that my daughter went to do her hair and watch Netflix in her bedroom instead of staying downstairs with us, and she still wasn’t ready! I was a little miffed that my ex-husband was late and that meant the girls had missed half of the school event.  I was just a hot mess.

And I didn’t hide it. I oozed hot mess on everyone.

I don’t want to send my kids off with fussiness.  I hate that!

It isn’t always this way, but more often than I want, to be sure.

I just don’t know what exactly it is except that maybe it’s simply that I hate being divorced.  I hate sharing my children.

I miss evenings together.  I miss looking forward to my husband arriving home from work.  I miss family dinners and bedtimes together.  I miss going together to their school events and concerts.  I miss celebrating birthdays and holidays together. I miss so many things.

I hate that my children’s father isn’t here to decorate the tree with them.  To hold our youngest up to put ornaments on the highest branches.  To sip hot cocoa and eat cookies.  I miss Christmas shopping together for our children.  I miss Christmas Eve services and Christmas morning together.  I miss hosting a Christmas party together.  I miss caroling.  I miss it all.  All the togetherness.

Maybe the nights when he arrives in the driveway it’s just a reminder of all those things that are now gone.

And maybe we all get a little wonky because it just isn’t right.  The whole thing is just awfully wrong.

Children aren’t supposed to have to go back and forth between parents.  They are supposed to be with both of us!

I’m so grieved just thinking about it.

And yet here I sit, all pitiful and sad, looking at our beautiful tree and decorations, and I’m struck by how truly blessed I am.  Who every said life was going to be perfect…or even close to perfect?  Nobody.

It might just be that there will always be a little touch of sadness to everything even the joyful things.
mantle #1
And maybe that is also just life on earth…this world is not our home.

This world…hmmmm…that makes me think about Christ coming here…leaving perfection to come to this sinful, sorrowful place.  How He became a man of many sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3) for us.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by this life, isn’t it?  To focus on all the things that are amiss.  I can so easily get caught up in the things that aren’t going my way, and I can stay there for quite a while.  But we have a great Savior who wants to walk this life with us…who wants to carry our burdens.

We have a savior that didn’t just come here to change our eternity.  He came here to change our daily.  He came to give us all that we need to live a life of hope and joy right here – to live each day with us.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

The Lord offers us strength and guidance.

…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 41:10

Jesus doesn’t just want to help with the transitions, He wants to give us all that we need in every moment…and all that we need is Him!

Just as God delivered His people repeatedly, he has delivered us through the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus! We have a blessed hope and reason for great joy!

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth in singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Isaiah 55:12

Just reading those scriptures and all the others I glanced at while looking for them, has put my heart and mind in a completely different place.  I feel a great hope welling up in me.  A hope that even though this life is not and never will be exactly what I want it to be, God is going to make it something beautiful…even in the transitions.

Well this post didn’t go in the direction I thought it would.  I was just planning on saying that this season is a time to reflect on the hope and peace we have in Christ.  And God led me in a bit of a different direction!  I love when He does that.

I hope my stream-of-consciousness writing today blesses you.  And I pray that we will all have the perspective of peace and joy this day and everyday as we remind ourselves repeatedly of the beauty of the gospel!  Of the glorious intrusion of God into our world, our lives, our very selves.

Of a Savior who gladly gave up glory for grief to save his beloved children.

Oh Lord, please help us have the right perspective on this life.  There is so much to be joyful about.

Father, just look at those 5 beautiful children you’ve given me!  And I have a beautiful Christmas tree, a kitchen full of food, a pretty dependable car in the driveway, clothes for all my children, heat in my house, my house!, toys to trip over (could stand to have a few less of those) and friends and family who love us.

Not to mention this wonderful season of hope!  Thank you Father!  This is a time to remember the blessings – to not get all wiggy about the bad stuff…the difficult stuff…the challenging stuff…the disappointing stuff.

I do wiggy really well.  I need to do peaceful really well.

Lord, please help us find Your peace in the craziness and challenges and disappointments.  Father, you love us so much and we know that you are going to work through all this difficult stuff…even though at times we can’t imagine how.  Thank you that we can trust you.  And thank you for the hope of this Christmas season.  And thank you for our sweet Savior Jesus!

nativity #1