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

The Cross Bears All

cross in prayer closet

One of my daughters painted this cross for my prayer closet years ago. At first it was a sweet addition amongst the other pictures and prayers on my wall. But as time has gone on, my faith has developed, and God has made so much sense of things in my prayer closet, this cross has become a focal point for me.

Each morning I spend time just gazing upon this cross. A 10-year-old’s representation of the forgiveness of the Savior. Many times I’ve stared in wonder as I thought about Jesus on the cross. The sins that must have flashed through His mind as He hung on the cross. Not just any sins, but mine. My sins hung up there on that cross holding Him down, punishing Him, bearing my burden.

After sorrowfully and then joyfully looking at that cross and receiving His forgiveness day after day, why did I still carry a burden? Why did I still carry shame?
Not all of what I carried was my fault. Not all of what felt like a burden on my shoulders was mine to seek forgiveness for. Not all of what Jesus sacrificed for me was my own doing. But, yet, I carried it. 

Some of the sin and shame I continued to carry around were iniquities done to me. Why is it that as children we tend to think everything is about us and everything is our fault? When that becomes a pattern for a child, as it did for me, the load becomes unbearable. It feels impossible to get rid of.

You see, when I sin, I can take responsibility for it. I can confess, seek forgiveness, turn away from my sin and seek a different way. But, when I am sinned against, it feels harder to let go of. It feels more out of my control. It feels like I need to wait on the sinner to confess, seek forgiveness and turn from their ways. But even if those things don’t happen, there is an answer. I don’t have to carry the burden myself. The answer is the cross.

Not only does Jesus want to carry the burden of the sin I have committed but He wants to carry the burden of the sins committed against me.

I no longer have to carry the offenses committed against me. I no longer have to figure them out. I no longer have to walk in shame. I no longer have to own it as my own.

So although the burdens I was carrying and allowing to weigh me down were not mine to carry, they were mine to let go of and trust Jesus to carry. It was my responsibility to trust Jesus to heal me, fill in the gaping holes left from the offenses committed against me, and walk in the freedom He hung on the cross to give me.

Dear One, His freedom is for you. His forgiveness is for you. His love is for you. Yes, you! Can you let go today? Can you allow Him to fill in the wounds left by another? I am praying for you. Jesus longs to intercede for you. May it be so!

1 Peter 2:24-25, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

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Suffering Obedience and Freedom

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Have you ever waited all week for results to come back to tell you whether or not you have cancer again? The doctor who removed the troublesome skin humbly admitted that she had never been in that position.
I’ve never once walked into a week hoping for suffering, hoping to have to wait on more lab results. Never once.
Jesus didn’t hope for suffering. He didn’t delight in the great agony He faced as he awaited probable pain and death. He cried out to God. He asked to be delivered. He asked if there was any other way.
But then He chose obedience. Perfect obedience which led to suffering. Suffering which led to freedom.
As I walk this road of suffering, complete with twists and turns which seem to lead away from what I desire, I am being trained in obedience. My ways are being stripped away. My flesh pierced. My mind and will transformed.
This week the transformation came in allowing Jesus to partner with me. The enemy loves to tell me I am alone. He loves to feed me lies about no one else understanding my pain. And, I seem to have a sick way of clinging to those lies.
But my suffering is bringing about transformation, when I obey. When I listen to that prompting to stop the Facebook scrolling and instead read the Word, I read the promises of Jesus. I read about His faithful love for me. I read about His pain and suffering. I read about the anguish He expressed during His most intense trial.

I read about freedom. Freedom the believers received as they opened their hearts to His Spirit and were then released from past bondage.

Just as Jesus didn’t desire the suffering that was coming to Him, I do not desire more suffering. But nowadays, I can walk into it with much less fear and much more peace, knowing suffering, coupled with obedience, always results in freedom. Thank you, Jesus!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Walking with Jesus Through Suffering

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Studying Hebrews this morning, thinking about the significance and greatness of Jesus. Jesus, greater than the angels. Jesus, worthy of my praise. Jesus, the one who sympathizes with my weakness.

My mind flashes to the ache in my foot where the doctor skillfully and so carefully used the scalpel to remove the worrisome skin. My foot, pierced. My flesh, wounded. My blood, exposed.

I walk with the reminder of my suffering. Each step sends an ache through my pierced foot.

My Jesus takes each painful step with me. Tempted, tried, suffered. His own feet pierced through. His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced through allowing the blood to drain out.

My Jesus, pierced.

His pain, His suffering, His sacrifice, so that I can read the words, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” and know that He walks with me in all of my suffering.

I walk with confidence in His love for me. I walk with confidence in His purpose for my pain. I walk with confidence in knowing that I do not walk alone.

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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.

March path

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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From “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”

God keeps taking me deeper, into deeper levels of freedom. Just over 6 months ago, I wrote this, Freedom and I was overwhelmed with that deep level of freedom.

But, God…

He’s unwrapping the blockades like an onion, layer by layer; the blockades that have been blinding me from further freedom. He shows me there’s still this wall of anxiety between us. He reveals there’s still this fence of doubt getting in the way. And then He opens my eyes to a layer of fear stumbling me on His path

Despair threatens to set in. “Oh God, I thought I had moved past anxiety, doubt, and fear.” But, His strong loving voice assures me, He has yet more for me still.

On the other side of the chains of despair, He has LIFE awaiting me. And, He has LIFE awaiting you!

Have you ever thought of the people shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”? They shouted the term hosanna, meaning save us. I imagine them feeling sold out to Jesus, placing their hopes in him, thinking they were finding and receiving freedom. Laying down their cloaks, their cut branches. Perhaps feeling as if they were laying down their hearts in submission.

But, we know those same sold out people, the ones willing to lay down their offerings, changed their cry just days later to “crucify him”. When Pilate asked, “Why?”, they only shouted again, “Crucify him!”

It’s hard to imagine this extreme change in behavior from “save us, Oh, God!” to “kill him!” until I allow the Lord to show me what’s in my heart.

Am I much different than the hosanna shouting people? Am I really any different at all than the people I read about in Matthew 21?

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

One day I claim freedom and power and then the next day, when faced with a trial, I claim my life as my own and kill God’s voice of love. 

I, too, shout, “Save me!” and then I crucify Him by holding up my blockade once again and kill His plan for my life.

But, God…

Crucify him post

As He unwraps these blockades, chipping away at my attempts at crucifixion, His freedom fills my soul.

When I see Jesus for who he is and not what he can do for me, he changes my cry. He puts my life in order.

My cry becomes crucify my flesh, my will, and my desire.

Oh Lord, hosanna, save me!

Women of Peace

I wrote this many years ago after my Great Grandma passed away. I wrote it as a way to remember the love and respect between my Great Grandma and Grandma and to remember the faith they helped instill in me. Today is March 12th, my Grandma Betty’s birthday. She is celebrating in heaven. 

“Momma, why don’t you come over here and rest your legs for a while?” Grandma asks as she scoots past the rounded counter’s edge.

“I just need to get these rolls in the hot oven, dear. I’m fine.” As my Great Grandma leans her head towards mine she add, “She’s always fussing over me,” and then she smiles a slow smile.

“Oh, momma, I’m not fussing. I just think you must be tired and ready to rest by now.”

My thoughts stay focused on these two amazing women I have been blessed to spend time with, but instead of listening to them I begin to marvel over them. As I look at Great Grandma, I see her eyes behind her thick glasses looking closely at the dough she is forming into perfect shapes. “She’s not tired,” I think to myself. After all she had rested her eyes for a few minutes in the comforts of her recliner, which almost envelops her small frame. The time she had spent in the warm sun in the garden, combined with the efforts of her body had caused her to feel fatigued. But, she would not admit that to anyone, especially her daughter. Great Grandma looked forward to the time she had each day, albeit short, to spend in the yard.

“It’s a battle,” she’d say, “trying to keep up with those pesky weeds. Do you know that last month when I spent a week in the hospital, my hydrangea plant was eaten by slugs!” She’d try to say it in a gruff voice, but the kindness inside of her would get the best of her and she would chuckle at the end of the sentence.

“Ma, they’re just plants! We just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with what the good Lord has blessed us with. That yard is a jungle!” Grandma knew the importance the yard held in her mother’s heart, but she also loved her momma so much. Much of their bickering was due to Grandma trying to protect Great Grandma from overdoing it, and Great Grandma stubbornly continuing in her ways. The doctor had suggested Great Grandma begin to take it easy in the yard. She chose to ignore that advice from the doctor, but Grandma had listened closely and taken notes as to what would help her mother continue out her long, full life.

I let my thoughts drift back to the sunny kitchen where an enjoyable feast was being prepared for me, the so-called guest of honor. With feet planted firmly on the ground, arms outstretched, Great Grandma twists the knob to the perfect baking temperature. The sunlight from the nearby window shines awkwardly on the timer so that when she goes to twist the knob she has to gently turn her head to the side to avoid the glare. She sniffs the mild scent of unbaked bread dough and continues her chore.

Finally, Great Grandma is finished in the kitchen. Deliberately placing a hand smoothed by warm dishwater, on the edge of the counter, she steadies herself, and then continues to use the counter as a guide as she makes her way to the living room. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t admit that it is time to rest, but she settles into the large recliner. Grandma is quiet and offers a relieved smile, as Great Grandma slumps into the chair. Grandma has lived with her mother’s stubbornness for a lifetime and learned the importance of allowing her the freedom of taking care of herself whenever possible.

At least once when I am with my Grandma and Great Grandma, I gaze at them with amazement and wonder. In my mind I formulate a list of all that I love about these women. The very best part of being with them is listening to their stories. Now that they are both comfortable in their cozy living room, I know the stories will begin to be told. Years had gone by when I didn’t appreciate their stories and the wisdom I could glean from them. But God knew the day would come when my heart would open up and I would see that listening to the wise women would change my life. Along with so many life lessons, I am learning about true contentment from my Grandma and Great Grandma. Though many of their stories told contain hardship, they are always told in the context of hope. One of their stories may begin by sounding like a story of loss, but midway through I will begin to see that it is really about strength to persevere and faith that God is in control.

Second to listening to their stories, is listening to them talk to each other. Speaking with genuine kindness just seems the natural way to speak for this mother and daughter. They truly respect each other and it shows in every aspect of their relationship.

Through these women, God taught me about love. Love so full that just being in the room with them I am able to catch what overflows. When I am with them I feel like a parched sponge, hanging on to each spoken and unspoken feeling, hoping to be saturated with love.

As individuals, each woman is amazing. Great Grandma has fully lived 93 years of life on this earth. She has lived through wars, marriage, childbirth, many moves, a serious car accident, grandchildren and great children’s births and countless surgeries. Great Grandma has learned how to hope, love, have faith, patience and true humility. She seems to always have a story brewing of one of her experiences. It wasn’t until I had entered into my 20’s, that I was able to appreciate all that her stories did for my soul. I finally began to notice that if I went to see Great Grandma with something negative consuming my mind, I would leave wondering what had ever troubled me. Her stories always gave me a different perspective and helped me to feel thankful for my life. Now, rather than escaping the conversation and heading to the dirty dishes that waited in the kitchen, I could follow her back to her chair just to listen. Until recently, Great Grandma had been able to tell long tales, with all of the parts connecting to form a lesson I need to learn. She has grown quieter recently. There are more frequent pauses. When I am searching for the next light topic to talk about, Great Grandma will amaze us all by thinking deeper and saying, “We are so lucky!” She keeps our conversation headed in the right direction, focused on the wonder of life. Great Grandma is a woman full of peace.

My Grandma, being equally as wonderful, is someone I have always admired. “Your grandmother is beautiful,” my friends would always say, commenting even further after spending time with her. She is outwardly lovely, and inwardly splendid. On the outside my Grandma has the most soft, delicate hands I’ve ever felt. Feeling her hands is like touching a velvety, summer rose petal. Often when we come together after not seeing each other for a while, she will grasp my hands and I will be taken back to when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with those hands. Those hands could gently french braid my hair. They could pull strong weeds from the yard. They could lightly brush away a tear on my cheek. Her hands could push the lawnmower around a steep, hilly yard. My grandma has hands filled with a balance of love and strength. On the inside she is all that she is on the outside combined with a joyful heart and a keen mind. She has endured both good and bad in her life, and chooses, like her mother, to focus on the good. Grandma must have learned a lesson from her mother about life, because she exuberates peace.

My grandma and great grandma have lived together, just the two of them, for about 9 years now. With each year, a new strength is added to their bond. Their partnership in this world seems to grow more established through each circumstance they face. The faith they have come to trust enables them for each coming day. All of what makes up these women is shown with each minute I spend with them. My grandma and Great Grandma are extraordinary women who have changed my life and fill me with a most precious gift, a peacefulness that I will always cherish.

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:4