Big Feelings and the Truth that Will Set You Free

Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.

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Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.

In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?

I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”.   I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.

During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.

Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.

Here’s what I found:

  • Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
  • Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
  • Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
  • Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
  • Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.

In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame.  I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.

I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.

Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.

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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Complicated Contradiction

Mothers' day

When you are involved on any side of adoption there seems to be this complicated contradiction. The joy is unbelievable. Yet, the pain is unbearable at times. Each person involved experiences it. There can’t be adoption without loss. Yet, there can’t be adoption without gain. The biological family experiences it. The adoptive family expriences it. And the adopted child experiences it.

The contradiction between the loss and gain of adoption. The loss, the gain.
The bittersweet, the beautiful.
The loss. She lost her baby. My girl lost her connection of 9 months. I lost my chance to carry my child.
The gain. She gained the family she desired for her baby. My girls gained a family to grow in. I gained my purpose.
Both times we brought home our babies I felt caught. Caught between imagining the sorrow of their birth families and living the joy of having a precious baby in my arms to hold. Knowing my gain meant another woman’s loss. Knowing my loss meant a shattering in my child’s life. Knowing my child’s gain meant turmoil they couldn’t possibbly understand. Knowing my child’s loss leaves an emptiness I can do nothing about in my own strength.

Each time my baby cried, I wondered, I still wonder, are they crying fresh tears or are they lingering tears of the life they once knew. The first season of their life. The season their hearts remember, even though their minds do not.

The bitter with the sweet.

The trauma with the healing.

The loss with the gain.

The shattered with the reconciled.

What Satan meant for destruction, God used for His glory.

Dear One, I know Mother’s Day or any holiday for that matter can be painful. It’s supposed to be one way, yet you look at your life and it’s so far from what is “supposed to be”. Can you ask God to show you His glory? Right in the midst of messy? Right in the midst of the broken? Lord, show us your glory. Reveal to us Your sweet in our bitter. More of you, Lord, Less of me. 

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson–A beautiful compilation of delightful short stories of the creatures living in the forest.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley–as we have been on a healing journey this school year, healing from past trauma, this was a wonderful, short book to solidifiy some of our learning about the parts of the brain, their function, and amazing ways in which it heals.

My Reading This Month: 

The Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman—great book with helpful exercises to strengthen any marriage.

Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro—interesting book describing the principles of EMDR therapy and how you can apply those some principles to your own life.

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen—I am not quite done with this book, but I have found it very interesting. I enjoy how it has practical  yet powerful ways to change your thoughts and thus improve your overall life.

My Learning This Month:

“The Yes Basket”: I learned this idea here: The Yes Jar. I love the Empowered to Connect website and podcast. I have learned many helpful tips there.

The Yes Basket has helped our family with problems such as stealing gum or treats, boredom causing “bugging behavior”, difficulty with waiting for someone to be available to play or help, and the general feeling of deprivation.

How it Works: We have a small basket on our family room coffee table labled YES. I place individually wrapped gum and Hershey Kisses. Other ideas are lollipops, small toys, fidget toys, bubbles to blow, etc. But, my kids are content with gum and Kisses. I like to keep things simple! I usually place 1 or 2 pieces of gum and 1 or 2 Kisses per kid per day.

Rules: They must ask to have something, but I always get to say, “Yes!” They have to keep it equal…no taking more than their share. They must throw away their wrappers. If they do not follow these rules, the Yes Basket is closed the following day.

Feel free to try the Yes Basket in your family and let me know how it goes!

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What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Delightfully Illustrated and Arranged for Children by  Hannah Hurnard and JoAnn Edington (I cannot recommend this book enough! Even if you have never read the original version, both kids and adults will love this book. It is an allegory of how God transforms our fears and weaknesses when we fully surrender to him. My children and I love it and want to read more and more each day.)

Indescribable by Louie Giglio (We continue to enjoy reading this devotional each morning. My 10 and 12-year-old enjoy how Giglio combines science and Biblical truth.)

My Reading This Month:

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland (This is the book version of the movie which is in theaters right now. The book is a more complete telling of Bart’s life story.)

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

My Learning This Month: 

Passport to Purity: My oldest daughter and I went away for a weekend, just the two of us. We brought along the Passport to Purity curriculum which includes, audio CD’s, parent guide, and a journal for the daughter to follow along in and answer questions. This curriculum includes learning about peer pressure, choosing friends, puberty, dating, love, and sex. We found it to be very well done. There were moments of awkwardness, which we needed to work through. Overall, I was so thankful to have the structure and framework the curriculum provided so that we could get through all the important information. Biblical truths were the base for the entire weekend. I would definitely recommend Passport to Purity for all famililies with kids around the ages 11-13.

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is the beautiful necklace Cate Florey designed for my girl so she could always remember our special weekend together! Check out her beautiful work here:  Cate Florey Studio

Thought Journaling: A counselor taught us about this helpful process she calls Thought Journaling. This process is a way of looking at how the thoughts we think and the messages we send ourselves cause us to react in positive or negative ways. Negative self-talk seems to just sneak right in. In becoming more aware of our reactions whether internally or externally, we can begin to see how false messages are sabotaging us. Or, the reverse is also true. When we send ourselves positive messages or quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s loving voice, we react in love, peace, and compassion.

thought journal page

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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What I Learned in February

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month

Ephesians–We read this wonderful book from the Bible little by little on our family vacation this month.

The Silent Storm by Marion Marsh Brown and Ruth Crone—beautifully written book detailing the life and trials of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s masterful teacher.

What I Read This Month

Boundaries by Henry Cloud—I read this book about 20 years ago and here I am reading it again, learning more than I did the first time. This book relates to all relationships.

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado–confession, I read this last month and then picked it up again this month and read it again!

My Learning this Month

The Season of No

I have never been in this season before. Oh, I have been invited. I have been encouraged. I have felt pulled toward this season. But, I have never actually participated in it.

Let me just tell you, this season of no is wonderful.

Just a couple of months back, while still living in the season of yes, I committed to many things. Some new things. Some old things. In the season of yes, the list just keeps piling up. The word, “Yes” just seems to flow from my lips. Hardly a second thought given to my yes response. Until the night before. That’s when sleeplessness sets in. Well, let’s be honest, sleeplessness creeps in well before the eve of the yes.

The tight chest, shallow breathing, frantic pace all sets in the moment I say yes.

Yes, I can take you to play practice 4 nights a week. Yes, I can drive to the store 4 times this week to buy those special ingredients for that baking project. Yes, I can fill in for you in that class. Yes, I can lead that group. Yes, I can watch your children. Yes, I can make those phone calls. Yes, I can be a part of that committee. Yes, yes, yes!

I look to my iPhone calendar and struggle to find a place to fit in all these yeses.

But, then it happened. A day came when I realized I had to say no to someone I love very much. I had to completely disappoint this person with a big fat no. I had to admit that I was tired, exhausted, too busy, and just unable to do what they wanted me to do. I wanted to be able to say yes. I wished there was another way. But, there clearly wasn’t. So, the answer was no.

I felt sick, like a failure. I was sure permanent damage had been done and trust had been broken.

What I found was that after the initial rip of the band-aid happened and the no had been doled out and the emotions settled, there was a certain calm. A boundary had been set.

That was the first of a series of no’s. The next few no’s came at a pretty rapid fire speed.

I was raised to keep commitments. I was raised to finish what you start. These are good, honest qualities. But, when “sticking to your commitment” causes an unhealthy environment for both parents and children, it’s time for the hard no. The hard no which leads to a lovely peace.

That’s what we are in now. We are sleeping more. Healing more. Loving more. The hard no led to a beautiful yes…yes to love!

Matthew 5:37,  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

 

coffee in mexico

What I Learned in January

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

My Father’s Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Robert Serva

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

Indescribable by Louis Giglio

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

What I Read or Listened to This Month:

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado (I love Max Lucado. This book will not disappoint!)

Your Teenager is Not Crazy by Jeramy Clark (When your almost teen recommends you read a book she heard about, it’s usually a good idea to listen to her!)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp (This has quickly became my favorite devotional, ever!)

Launch (a podcast on iTunes about an author going through the steps of writing and publishing a book series)

My Learning This Month:

Bracelets = Time Together

Exactly a year ago, God began working in me to establish one on one time with my girls. I wrote a blog post called, Talk Time. Almost immediately after implementing Talk Time with my girls, I saw benefits: more peace between my children, more peace between me and my kids, more compliance from my kids, a greater knowledge of my kids’ interests, and an overall smoother running home. So why in the world would a mom ever fall away from this wonderful solution? My kids didn’t stop wanting this time with me. We didn’t stop enjoying this time together. We never saw the benefits of this time together diminish. But, one day, our schedule was full…too full, and Talk Time got pushed aside. Then, 2 days passed and still no Talk Time. Then stress and tension began to creep back into our home, and suddenly time together was the last thing anyone of us wanted.

Fast forward a year and we are back to the beginning of January 2018. Much learning and growth has occurred in our family in the last few months with the help of an amazing adoption parent coach. But, my one on one time with the girls was NOT happening regularly. The parent coach shared with me the idea of using bracelets for the girls to exchange for time with me

This is how this works: Each morning, I place three rubber bracelets on the breakfast table at each girls spot, along with their daily vitamins. They place the bracelets on their wrist. When they want time with me, they are to come to me and request time with me and hand me a bracelet. Each bracelet equals 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with me doing something of their choice. They may even choose to use all 3 bracelets at once, equaling 30 minutes of time with me. The key is that it is just me and the child, it’s their choice of activity, and they must request it. So, when we have family game night, they would not need to use their bracelets for that. Also, going over to the park as a family, would not count.

bracelets

So rather than just setting the good intention of having Talk Time, we now have the visual, tangible reminder of the bracelets right on the girls wrists. As well as the plan for them to initiate and take the risk of asking me for time. I do enjoy this time, but I have to admit that when I am about to start the laundry and one child comes to me and says I want to use a bracelet now, I do struggle at times. But, what I have found is that 10, 20, or even 30 minutes of time goes quickly! I am able to pick back up what I was doing, or what I was doing gets pushed aside, while time with my girls does not get pushed aside.

A wise, good friend, has encouraged me several times with the phrase, “You will never regret time with your kids. You will never look back and regret the energy you put into your kids.”

Is sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home? Are you having a hard time remembering the last time you had individual time with your child? Is your schedule so hectic it seems impossible to carve out time with your children? I encourage you to implement the bracelet plan.

Let us remember our children are gifts from the Lord!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

 

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Attaching

My child doesn’t trust me. My child doesn’t trust me. My child doesn’t trust me. The words haunt me. Torment me. Cause an unending grief.

My child whom I gazed at all hours of the day and night as a newborn. My child who cried for hours and hours each night in my arms. My child who stole my heart from the moment I heard of her existence. My child who captivates my attention with her many gifts and talents. My child who serves her family.

My child was wounded before ever making her presence known on this earth. My child’s heart and brain were told this world isn’t safe. My child’s fight or flight response was on alert when she should have been experiencing the safest place she will ever know.

My child lost innocence too soon. My child faced toxins too soon. My child experienced stress too soon.

But, my Father is faithful. My Father is gracious. My Father is healer. My Father is hope. My Father is sovereign. My Father is true. My Father is righteous. My Father is all-knowing. My Father is all-seeing.

My child doesn’t trust. My child doesn’t trust. My child doesn’t trust…yet.

Looking in my child’s eyes each time we speak. Carving out one on one time, devoted to her. Refusing to engage in arguments. Seeking to understand her past and present. Becoming a consistently safe, available person in her life. Verbally and physically reminding her that NOTHING can separate her from my love. Praying daily to my Creator…her Creator.

My child comes to me. My child opens up to me. My child seeks me in times of trouble and joy.

My Father listens. My Father heals. My Father brings unity. My Father holds all things together and

my Father has not and will not ever leave my family. Amen.

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