They Do Exist.

Emotions

When The Church (And Your Friends) Are Terrified Of Your Negative Emotions

gwp_emotionslive

Editor’s Note: Between friends, family, church, and magazines, we are given some pretty intense messages on how to deal with our emotions, particularly the negative ones. Today’s post is by Kera Package. She blogs at kerapackage.com, and tweets at @kera_package. She also wrote 10 Things I Learned About Burnout for us in 2012, which is a must-read for workaholics and overcommitters. – Lauren

Last week, I shared how it felt to spend Christmas alone. My emotions ranged from angry to depressed to incredibly grateful. In response to my reflection, I received two messages.

Message 1: Cast out the demons of depression and take back your life.
Message 2: Thank you for writing this. Your honesty was encouraging.

Can I ask you a question? What is the appropriate emotion for your first holiday alone? If I were super excited, I’d be antisocial. If I didn’t care, I’d be a sociopath.

So, the natural response is a little frustration and loneliness, isn’t it?

* * *

Emotions are natural. When someone betrays you, naturally you’re angry and hurt. When you don’t get the job you wanted, of course you’re disappointed. When you’re proud of your achievement, why wouldn’t you want to celebrate with your friends?

Feelings are okay, even the “bad” ones. When the world around us sucks, our response should be to cry. When God seems absent in the mess of our daily lives, both faith and doubt are appropriate reactions. When everything within me wants to run far, far away to someplace safe, my “flight” instinct is doing its job.

We were created to feel.

Need I remind you that Jesus – the epitome of humanity – was angry enough to flip a table, upset enough to weep, and distressed enough to physically sweat blood.

I can only imagine that He also laughed until he cried, danced like a crazy man to celebrate with his friends, and sometimes sat alone wondering why no one understood him.

The scriptures are filled with emotions; the verses drip with feelings. Not cliché expression of appropriate emotional proportions, but deep heartfelt cries of joy, sorrow, hope, and despair.

King David is overcome with joy and dances until his clothes fell off.
The Psalmists cry out in pain, anger, desperation, and fear.
Prophets rip off their clothes and wail through the streets.
Job is so distressed that he curses the day of his birth.

Need more proof? Read through Psalm 119 aloud in the Message or NLT Bible. It’s dramatic. It’s a group of people telling God how they feel about His law (the basis of their faith). It’s a weird tension of “my life is horrible, save me” and “thank you Lord for being faithful and compassionate.” And, it’s certainly emotional.

* * *

How often do we, as a spiritual family, talk about how we feel about life, God, and ourselves? Not surface level chitchat, but the aches and the cries of our hearts?

We like generic terms: “I’m doing well” or “I’m struggling, but God is good.”

I like generic terms because saying “My heart feels like it’s being ripped to shreds by the injustice in the world and my gut says I need to do something about it, and I kind of want to throw up because my brain says I’m insane and is anxious about everything…” makes me sound a little unstable.

If I were to start cursing the day of my birth or ripping my clothes off to scream about current events, you’d have me committed for a psych evaluation. To some extent, I can’t say I’d blame you.

Sometimes we are overly dramatic. Sometimes our emotions do rule our life. Generally though, our emotions are more normal than we think.

There is a time and a season for every feeling from euphoria to rage to empty indifference. Unleashing those emotions is a natural part of human existence.

Not in an “I’m gonna unleash this can of whoop ass” professional WWE wrestling sort of way, but in a healthy “I’m going to allow myself to feel and then learn how to respond to what I’m feeling”  sort of way.

Dealing with your emotions isn’t the same as controlling them.

In Jewish culture, mourning is viewed as a necessary process. At funerals, each person in attendance shovels dirt onto the casket in order to feel the reality of the loss. The immediate family tears their clothing to show their grief. They sit shiva for seven days of mourning. Then the grieving continues for an entire year as the family recites prayers for the deceased. Grief is a cathartic process; one must feel in order to move forward.

I think Judaism retained a valuable aspect of faith that Christianity tries to suppress: the emotional rollercoaster. By focusing on controlling emotions, we neglect the process: we refuse to give ourselves the freedom to heal, to rejoice, or to grieve.

We’re taught to reign in our emotions. Our heart is evil. Our feelings are lies. God wants us to have joy abundantly, and we must teach ourselves to be happy and perfectly content little Christians.

If something goes wrong, we simply say: “well, God must have a plan” or “everything happens for a reason.” Maybe God loves Machiavellian strategies. OR MAYBE, we come up with ridiculous explanations in order to ignore our own emotional health.

It’s much easier to translate a tragedy into a “divine message” or a “call to action” than it is to wrestle with our own anger, bitterness, and doubt.

When something horrible happens like a natural disaster or a mass murder, we’re forced to mourn. We see death, and we hug a little tighter because we’re anything but certain.

What about lament in our daily lives? Are we dealing with our emotions? Or are we suppressing them for the sake of being a “good Christian?”

The other day, the mere sight of Christmas tree made me bawl like a baby. I saw the twinkling little lights, and holiday memories of violence and drama flooded through my mind. God and I had a very heated discussion about how the “night of His Son’s birth” is one of the busiest days for emergency calls related to domestic disputes. And, I realized there was something within me I hadn’t allowed to heal.

Some of you are thinking, “Sounds like you need therapy.” Of course I do, we all could use a little therapy – especially because we live in a culture that tells us it’s not okay to feel. If we can’t experience the emotions, how are we supposed to move forward?

* * *

And, why are emotions viewed as a negative thing? Yes, bitterness is poison and chronic depression is destructive.

But, sometimes our emotions are God given tools to help us figure out how to be human.

Sometimes I’m angry because I am supposed to be frustrated. I should be pissed off when I see a man with five hundred dollars in his wallet give a homeless man a dollar. I should want to scream at the man who’s slapping his son in public. I should be furious with our culture for encouraging us to starve ourselves and buy lots of things we don’t need. And, at times, I should be angry with myself for knowing better.

Emotions can be a natural indicator that something is wrong. Sometimes I’m intimidated by people on the street because they are actually a threat to my physical safety. Sometimes I’m worried about the consequences of my actions because I’m about to make a detrimental mistake. Our gut instincts can be lifesavers.

On the flip side of things, our emotions can be positive indicators as well. Think about what makes you come alive.

When are you the happiest?

For me, there’s nothing better than looking at something beautiful and knowing I helped create it. When I’m writing or taking photos or dabbling in something artsy, something inside of me lights up. I feel the same way about leading discussions, public speaking, the streets of Ibiza, driving a 5 speed… these are the things I get excited about. My feelings are probably good indicators that these things should be a part of my life because they make me happy.

If I were fond of torturing puppies and shooting dope, it would be better to ignore my preferences. But even in those situations, my emotions aren’t lying to me. They’re showing me the reality of my brokenness. Emotions reveal where my heart isn’t aligned with God’s. We can reasonably conclude that Jesus wouldn’t kick a puppy or shoot up. From scripture and life experience, we know God’s character. When what we’re feeling inside doesn’t reflect God’s character, we know we have things to work on…

What does working through emotions look like?

I have no idea. It varies from person to person. It may look like an hour of crying in front of a Christmas tree or it may look like five years of therapy. It may be a six-mile run for one person and a few hours of journaling for another. We’re all different, but we all feel deeply. Even if that feeling is a disenchanting indifference.

While we must deal with emotions as individuals, we must also deal with them in community. When we take the time to listen to one another, we usually find we have more in common than we initially thought. “What, you feel self conscience too? You’re beautiful.” Though our circumstances may vary greatly, we share the same humanity.

How often you hear “me too” might surprise you. And, it might enrage you at first.

We take comfort in feeling alone in our mess. My pain and my joy are unique. How dare you say “me too”? Or those two words can be the most refreshing thing you’ll ever hear. Either way, one of the biggest lies Satan tells us is we’re alone and no one could ever possibly feel the way we feel.

In some regards, it’s true. I’ve never walked in your shoes. I’ve never experienced your pain through your eyes, with your heart, and in your mind. I will never understand. I can, however, empathize because I’ve felt my own share of pain. I can choose to listen and to walk with you. And, you can choose to do the same for me.

Sharing is scary, and rightly so. The Church generally isn’t a safe place to discuss emotions.

If I admit how I’m feeling, I risk being viewed as an outsider. People cry “spiritual warfare” and question my spiritual leadership. Next thing you know, I emerge from a “discipleship meeting” with an assigned accountability partner and homework and a list of things to memorize. I quickly become a project because I deviated from the cultural norm of “I’m okay, I promise.”

Maybe, all I needed was twenty-four hours of sadness and now I’m perfectly okay. Or maybe, I’ll spend a lifetime fighting with the tension between depression and trust in God like Mother Theresa. Is either unnatural if I’m still seeking to live my life as Jesus would if He were in my shoes?

The Church, as most of us know it, refuses us the freedom of unleashing our feelings.

“We are able to talk passionately about the dark night of the soul without feeling it as long as the worship songs are full of light, the sermons lay bare all mysteries, and the prayers treat God as an object there to tell us it’s all going to be OK. The institution treats God as a cow on our behalf. The worship songs affirm certainty so that we are free to celebrate uncertainty; the sermons relay absolute conviction so that we can freely confess our doubt; and our prayers never question the God of religion so that we can express our cynicism. The structure acts as a security blanket that enables us to speak of the Crucifixion without ever undergoing its true liberating horror.” – Peter Rollins, The Insurrection, p. 47-48

We quickly forget that Jesus cried out “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” as He died alone on the cross instead of “I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home… “

We also forget that a young Jesus wandered away from his parents and into the temple because he enjoyed being in His Fathers house (Luke 2). Even as a child, he followed His heart and did what He loved.

* * *

As Christians, we hear all about “controlling our emotions,” but wouldn’t it be better to learn how to work with them?

Most New Years resolutions are abandoned because we set ourselves up for failure by resolving to do things we don’t want to do and aren’t capable of doing. No matter how many times we resolve to control our emotions, we will fail. Or maybe we’ll “succeed,” and choose a bland, boring existence instead of a passionate, fulfilling life. The only one who can align our hearts with God’s is God.

So, let’s do something a little different this year. Let’s resolve to have some emotional intelligence.

I refuse to believe God created us with beautiful hearts just for religion to reprogram them into following a moral code.


Learning To Let Go Of My Emotional Suitcase

woman-suitcase

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by Stephanie Spencer. She’s a coffee-drinker and Christ-follower looking for God moving in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter at @everydayawe or read her blog at everydayawe.com. We’re also taking A POLL today! Click here to vote. – Lauren

I sat on the plaid couch next to my fiancé. Across from us sat our pastor and his wife. It was pre-marital counseling, almost twelve years ago. It was the moment I received some of the best advice ever given to me.

It was the middle of the session spent talking about our childhoods. I had just finished telling stories of my past. Stories filled with facts, but empty of feeling.

After I finished, the pastor’s wife locked eyes with me. I saw wisdom, strength, and grace in her. She saw the lie in me. And she wasn’t afraid to say it.

“You keep your emotions in a suitcase. You carry them tight to you. You decide when to open them and when to keep them shut. You need to stop doing that.”

Ouch. The truth hurts.

Like many people, I carried hurts from my past. Divorce. Bullying. Low self-esteem. Loneliness. Broken promises. Bad relationships. A shattered heart.

With each new hurt, I packed my suitcase and grasped it tighter. Knowing that others could not be trusted. Knowing that if I let my feelings out, they would get stomped on. History had proven it. I wasn’t going to make those mistakes again.

I didn’t even do it on purpose. Holding my emotions locked tight in a suitcase was instinctual. It seemed to be a type of self-preservation.

It was actually a type of self-destruction.

Keeping my suitcase locked up not only prevented hurts from coming in, it prevented hurts from going out. I needed to let go of some of those old wounds. I needed to let the anger escape so it would not turn into bitterness. I needed to let the grief escape so it would not turn to misery. Inside the suitcase, they were festering. Without open air, these emotions were like mold spores, slowly ravaging my heart.

My suitcase was also a barrier. In effort to protect my heart from being broken, I was keeping my heart from being expanded. I was 21 years old and in danger. I had so much life in front of me. So much potential for love and joy. But only if I let them in. Only if I was willing to open the suitcase.

Perhaps the biggest problem with my suitcase was that it kept my hands full. I was not created to cling to my emotional control. I was created to cling to God. I had to learn to hand the suitcase over to Him.

I had to learn that my heart was better off in God’s hands than my own.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I was trying to create my own peace. By never truly being open, I would never truly be hurt. But humans were made for community. Any peace that comes at the expense of love is a false peace. I needed the peace that comes only from God.

The Bible does not promise that we won’t be hurt by others. It does not promise that others will always be trustworthy. What it does promise is that God is always trustworthy. That He can give us the strength to do things that are difficult. That He can give us rest. That He can give us security.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;

he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8)

An amazing thing happened when I learned to give more and more of my suitcase to God: He opened it for me. And it wasn’t scary. It was natural.

It makes sense. My Creator knows my story. He knows how I have been hurt. He knows how I think. He knows how I feel. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows how to love me. He knows how to help me. He knows how to change me.

I recently moved. I got a beautiful going-away gift from my co-workers. A video. A video of individuals telling stories of the impact I had on their lives. There were a few common words used to describe me by younger women. Women who had only known me a few years. They used words like vulnerable, authentic, real.

They had no idea how remarkable it was for me to hear those words. Words that never would have been used to describe me before I sat on the pastor’s couch twelve years ago. Words that never would have been used to describe me before I learned to hand my heart to God.

I think the suitcase has been destroyed.


How To Understand Your Emotions, by Sally Falwell, Psy. D.

happygirl

Editor’s Note: Today, I am thrilled to introduce Sally H. Falwell, Psy.D. She is a phenomenal licensed clinical psychologist and professional counselor that has graciously volunteered to share her expertise on emotions. Over my years of attending counseling, I spent lots of money paying for the knowledge that is in this article, and I’m SO HAPPY to be able to deliver it to you all for free. Sally writes professionally at legacyacc.com and I highly recommend browsing her site. She is a wealth of wisdom. – Lauren

What are emotions and why do they seem to get in the way of good things I am trying to do?

Simply put, emotions are a normal part of being human, but they require something from us and help us grow, change, and mature.

A Few Things About Emotions
- Emotions are educators. They point me to what I need to learn and pay attention to.
- There is usually a reason I am acting a certain way with certain emotions.
- Ignoring my emotions causes them to magnify and multiply.
- My body is impacted by the emotions I experience.
- When I deal with my emotions, I work toward my goals, not away from them.

Climate vs. Weather
Is there a difference in an emotion and a feeling? For a bit of a guide, I often describe emotions as the experience (“I am sad”) and feelings as how this is expressed (downcast face, tears).

Also, you can make a weather comparison, using mood and emotions as the climate (78 degrees, 20% humidity, partly cloudy) and feelings as how the climate is experienced through weather (warm breeze, putting on a sweater because I got a chill, wearing sunglasses to avoid a glare).

- A chilly person (climate) is experienced as cool, aloof, disinterested (weather).
- If I have a regular mood of irritation (climate), I am likely experienced as a sharp, critical person (weather).

Emotions = Educators
Emotions are educators. They tell us what is going on with us, inside and out. How I feel on a given day might could be related to an element of my life that needs attention.

One important part about distinguishing between emotions and feelings comes when looking at your own mood and behaviors, considering how you treat yourself and others, and how they might experience you, determining why I am acting a certain way, why certain things scare me or rub me the wrong way.

I am NOT Angry!
Emotions are like weeds – feed them and they grow, ignore them and they grow. Emotions get bad rap sometimes, especially in a culture that prizes self-controlled, agreeable, well-put-together women. We hurt ourselves and others by denying emotions as good, natural, and healthy.

- “I shouldn’t feel this way.” (e.g. It is wrong to be angry.)

This indicates that some emotions are okay and some are not. In fact, all emotions are equal. Some do not feel as good as others, some are harder to deal with, but they all show up for a reason.

- “I am sorry you feel that way.”

This is denying someone their instinct to respond to their emotions, basically saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way based on my evaluation.” and indicates that the person is off-base in what they feel, even though they are entitled to experience something in their own individual way. This statement basically says, “I do not want you to feel that way because I do not want to know that part of you and how it might relate to me.”

- Choosing one emotion over another (e.g. sadness over anger)

- Labeling emotions as acceptable (happy) or unacceptable (anger)

- Ignoring or dismissing an emotion

This is accomplished through distraction and denial
- going onto something else
- substance use or abuse
- food use or abuse
- cutting or harming yourself
- overworking
- managing or controlling other people
- cutting an emotional situation/person out of your life
- denial (telling or yelling), “I am not angry!”
- putting on a mask of happiness when actually down/depressed inside
- stuff an emotion down, willing it away

Emotions and My Body
Emotions have an impact on us physically. Simply put, when we experience more negative or positive emotions, our body responds too. Some common responses to the stress that emotions can cause are:
- sweating
- raised blood pressure
- stomach aches
- headaches
- insomnia
- clinching teeth
- tight muscles

When our bodies experience stress, including emotional stress, certain hormones are dumped into our systems to help us deal with an anticipated threat to our safety. If not dealt with, my body will carry stress with it, stress hormones pumping through my blood, affecting my health in many different ways. Over time, these results compound.

Do You Smell Smoke?
I use a lot of phrases and word pictures in my practice. Where emotions are concerned, I use the phrase: Where there is smoke, there is fire.

Emotions can fill the air like smoke, offering evidence that something is wonderful, peaceful, amiss, concerning, heartbreaking, maddening. Following the emotions to the source is a bit like being willing to find out “what is behind door #3” and often takes a fair amount of courage and vulnerability.

Handling Myself: Dealing & Balance
Is controlling emotions the best way to handle this part of being human? Not necessarily. Dealing with emotions and seeking balance are two great ways to tackle emotions and feelings as they arise.

Dealing
This is a whopper and takes some practice. Maturing emotionally is hard but rewarding. To deal with an emotion when it presents itself can be painful and time-consuming. Feelings that emerge out of emotions are often linked to other people, both in the past and the present. There is usually a reason why I act the way I do when I am emotional.

There is a reason that as an adult woman, when I don’t get my way, I do not throw myself on the floor and have a temper tantrum. That is expected behavior for a three-year-old. As we mature, we learn how to “control” ourselves, and sometimes to our own detriment. If I have not learned to deal with my emotions, I may not throw a temper tantrum, but I might resort to higher-order responses like giving the cold-shoulder, talking down to someone, transferring my anger from the person I am mad at ( my husband) to an undeserving party (my assistant at work) – this is also known as “kick the dog”.

Balance
When emotions are treated on an extreme, they magnify and multiply. When we lash out from emotions, we create additional problems, usually with other people. If we ignore emotions, we begin creating an emotional lifestyle (e.g. living depressed, anxious, insecure, unhappy)

Giving emotions the attention they deserve makes a way for balance. We can use emotions as guides and educators of what inside of us has been hurt or wounded. Not letting emotions dictate me and not squishing emotions down when they beg for attention pulls me out of extremes and into emotional balance.

Emotions and Other People
If it weren’t for other people, I would be perfectly fine! I could act how I want, when I want. I would not need to listen, pay attention, or make room for new and different information in how I think about the world around me. I would also enjoy a tremendous amount of loneliness, a lack of intimacy, and a limited understanding of what it is like to actually love or care for another person.

Part of dealing with and balancing my own emotions includes respecting the others’ emotions. This can be particularly difficult, and stir up additional emotions that threaten my feeling loved, appreciated, noticed, valuable, and acceptable. Dealing with emotions definitely requires a cup full of courage!

Keep in mind, not all people represent the same amount of safety when it comes to dealing with your emotions. Some relationships will be more challenging than others to work through emotions with, some people safer and more gracious than others.

What’s In It For Me?
The very best part of dealing with and resolving emotions when they present themselves is that you reap the benefits of being true to yourself, growing personally, and learning to be respectful of yourself and others. When seen for what they are, emotions lose some of their scariness and it can be easier to handle the “yucky” emotions and create a bigger space for peace, joy, happiness, hope, excitement, contentment – some of the emotions we enjoy feeling.


Emotions vs. Feelings vs. Heart: A Study

hearttree

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Leticia Aracil. She has spent the last several years as an anthropology lecturer and academic mentor, specifically aiding students understand the value of their emotional structures. I found her observations on emotions, feelings, and the heart to be hugely helpful and informational. It might be a little more difficult to follow than you’re used to, but buckle down and dig through it! It’s worth it. For you academic readers, this should be cake. Enjoy! – Lauren

The Bible uses the term “heart” not to refer to the emotional part of ourselves, but to the most intimate part of us as a whole. We wrongly use “heart” to refer to emotions only, but that mistake is based on how the more important an emotion is, the more deeply it relates to us. Emotions have become a very confusing topic to talk about.

The general feeling about emotions is that no “objective truth” can be said about them, as they are “subjective”. On one side, they are said to be somehow arbitrary, inconstant, and changing, even animal, and opposed to thought and reason; yet, they are believed to be one of the nuclear parts of our self.  Over-simplifying this can lead to really troublesome and heart-breaking conclusions, such as the reduction of love to either simply romanticism or hormones.

But things are not like that.

Emotions, as every other constitutive human reality, are a complex topic and require some distinctions to be thought of straight. You need to understand the way your emotions work to see the logic and deep sense behind them. With this post I wanted to share with the Good Women some structural tips that are useful to understanding and dealing with emotions. This, however, is just a little guideline and doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive.

1st: Emotions are not opposed to reason.

Feelings and thoughts are different things, but they exist in essential unity in our lives.

Every thought is permeated by rationality, and everything known is affected by our emotions: we feel our thoughts and we think our emotions. Just think closely about something that excites you and how much of that passion also has to do with what you know and think about it.

This is because it’s not the eye that sees, the brain that thinks, or the hand that touches. It’s that we carry, in every aspect of ourselves, the whole of our human significance. It’s true that emotions are individual and we are all different in a way, but we all share the human condition and we feel according to it. So, even when we can’t experience someone else’s thoughts, we can talk about emotions with rigour.

2nd: Emotions are important.

They are an intrinsic part of our humanity. The way in which people feel is as singular and peculiar to us as the “rational mind”: they are both signs and consequences of our interiority.

Your feelings as a woman are important and reasonable, because “woman” is the way you are a human being. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I strongly recommend reading Yashar Ali’s “Why Women Aren’t Crazy”.

3rd: It is not only about self-expression.

Emotions don’t sprout in the middle of nothing. They are related to your reality. Emotions make the bond of your inner self with the world more obvious.

Every emotion is a response to something; they have an object (a reason to be) and content (the way they happen). We might not see or understand where they come from every time, but they are related to how we experience things. The value of an emotion is the value of its object.

It is not the same, the anger you might feel if you accidentally break a glass, compared to the anger you feel when you see someone being abused; it is anger in both cases, but obviously you should not give the same space in your life to both of them. Understanding the value of the broken glass, you might decide not be angry about it, but you certainly should not let yourself not be angry about someone being abused. When you feel angry without knowing where it comes from, be careful what you do with it; feeling and expressing are not the same things.

Your feelings express you, but you could also say emotions are the way the world expresses itself within you.

4th: Emotions are not all the same.

Emotions and feelings are different from one another. A helpful classification could be:

- Physical feelings. The ones that find their origin in states and relations of our body. Pleasure from a good massage, pain from illness. These are the voice of our bodies. Physical feelings are the consequence of a stimulus, of which we might be aware or not. We experience them passively.

- Psychic feelings. These are the subjective feelings or moods. They affect us depending of our character traits and personal experiences. The general sadness you may feel days after a fight, the good mood someone has after a good night of sleep, the side effects of a medicine on your mood, etc. While the physical feelings have a cause, these feelings have a motive. They are not experienced passively, but they come somehow one-sidedly on us.

- Spiritual feelings. They are the emotional response to truth, beauty, and value recognized by our intelligence: the emotional aspect of our heart responding to something of worth. These feelings are the emotional aspect of an act of freedom that involves our whole self, they cannot possibly arise in our hearts unless we’re conscious of the object we are responding to; therefore, they are active and creative feelings. These kinds of feelings are not random or irrational at all, but the opposite, feelings true passion is made of!

For more on this distinction, I recommend the reading Alice von Hildebrand, “In Defense of Feelings”.

What are these distinctions for? They help us find the right place for emotion in our lives.

When I get anemic, I get very depressed. The first time it happened, I didn’t know it could be a feeling caused by my physical body, so I took it for a real state of my heart. I got very worried because I had no reason to feel that way. Nothing I did to cheer myself up worked. A single aspect of my body took control over me in a way that, to all effects, seemed random and irrational – and that isolated me. Only when I became aware it was physical and not psychic was I able to deal with it properly: the angst was gone, and I just had to put my sadness in parentheses and take my vitamins.

It might sound silly to some of you, but think about the horrible torture it might become for a person to believe their pain is coming from the state of their heart, instead of knowing it has physical origin. And the opposite too! Think, for example, about someone trying to fix physically a problem that comes from the soul, like trying to fill emptiness in one’s heart through antidepressants. They will distract this person from the pain, but nothing is remedied.

5th:  There can be wrong emotions.

Believing that our feelings are always “right” is to seriously underestimate our skill to mess ourselves up.

We have to give them credit, but they can be partial, incomplete, corrupted, unfair, inadequate, sick, confused, irrational, poorly managed, misunderstood, etc. We need to be aware of that.

6th: Emotions need education.

Against the general opinion, spontaneous feelings can be unauthentic. Not only they are likely to be superficial or incomplete, but also might be more of a reaction than an expression of ourselves as a whole. Acting on spontaneous feelings can be an involuntary lie, they might take only immediate situations into consideration and fail to recognize consequences.

Along with our intelligence, talents, and manners, it is crucial that we learn about our emotional dimension, to become more authentic.

How do we do this?

Educating our emotional selves is not restraining. It helps us experience our emotions fully and more clearly, and also gives us access to subtler levels of emotions we might be missing or experiencing without knowing it.

1. Realize that your emotions are not you but an aspect of you. Strive to know yourself, but keep yourself open to surprises.

2. Take responsibility of your feelings because they come from you.

3. Strengthen the connection your feelings have with other dimensions of your self (like intelligence and will).

4. Deal with your emotions knowing how they relate to the world. If you know what makes you angry, you can avoid it if necessary, or prepare yourself for it so it won’t hurt your balance. We need to know which things deserve which kind of emotions, learn how to handle them, and correct their deviations.

 

Our hearts are vulnerable, meaningful, and strong. Don’t allow yourself to give your heart to what doesn’t deserve it, or keep it from what does deserve it – that’s confusing and painful. We must take care of our hearts.


Your Heart Is Good

bc8cb980470711e1abb01231381b65e3_7

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Elena Pellizzaris, writer, reader, teacher, lover of Jesus. She spends most of her days serving by teaching orphans in Liberia, West Africa. She works for Orphan Relief and Rescue and blogs at Stumbling In Grace. You can also find her on Facebook. – Lauren

Our hearts are the purest indicator of who we truly are. What we believe about our own hearts reveals to us what we really believe about ourselves. For so long, I lived in self-hatred and believed that there could be nothing good in me. My eyes have been opened to lies, and there is one thing that I now know to be true: I’ve been given a new heart. A redeemed heart. A ransomed heart. And Jesus says it is good. Really good. Good enough to die for.

As I said, though, I didn’t always know this. Ever since I was a little girl, I carried this belief around with me that said my heart didn’t matter, that I didn’t matter. My biological father left when I was a baby, and I haven’t seen him since. Why would he stick around, after all? My parents were emotionally (and sometimes physically) absent for a lot of my early childhood. It’s because of you that they’re always gone. Why would they stay? Why would they love you? My ex-husband cheated on me, left me, and then divorced me. You’re disposable. Worthless. You will never be cherished, never be adored. Everyone always leaves you – and it’s all your fault. 

With each wound came the same old lie, and the pain that I felt only seemed to serve as proof that it was all true. I felt like there was something inherently wrong with me, with my heart, that drove people away. That made me unworthy of love.

I didn’t recognize this, of course. Not in a way that I could put into words. But it was there, deep down inside that wounded heart of mine. It would rise up in me whenever I felt rejected. Out of place or not good enough. Lonely. The tears would come, and I would nod yes, this is how it would always be. These hurtful things inside of me would never go away, and I simply had to learn how to fight the pain, choke back the tears, and ‘move on’.

But then, one day, I heard another Voice. A softer Voice, a gentler Voice. It was a Voice that I recognized but, admittedly, a Voice that I hadn’t heard in a while. That’s. Not. True.

And over time, through prayer and study and learning to listen to that Voice, it began to make sense. It made so much sense, in fact, that I could hardly believe I’d been blinded for so long. Isaiah 61 hit me like it never had before. In it, God explains the reasons that Jesus has come. And you know what He says? “To bind up the brokenhearted.” “To proclaim freedom for the captives.” “To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

When I read those verses, I could see it so clearly. That was me; He was talking about me! My heart had been broken by pain and other people’s sin, and I had become a captive to the lies that came from that brokenness. But that’s not the end of my story! Because Jesus came, and He came for me! That means the ashes, the mourning, the despair, the lies, the feeling of worthlessness is gone. Christ’s work is finished, and I now stand “rebuilt”, “restored”, and “renewed”, just as He promised.

So if your heart is feeling heavy and broken, if you’re weighed down by hurt or fear, I urge you to take that precious heart of yours to Jesus. Your heart matters to Him; you matter to Him. And He cannot wait to set you free.


Being A Woman: Believing That I Am Too Much

glitterhands

Editor’s Note: How long have you believed that you were just too much? How many times have you shoved your heart down to your feet, believing that it was all just broken and bad? How handicapped have you become in believing that your emotions do more harm than good? How many seasons of life have you gone through, painstakingly metering out the amount of yourself you believe is bearable to others? Jillian VandeWege tweets at @jillyvandewege. Come celebrate with us that we are not too much. – Lauren

Ever since I can remember, I’ve kept a secret list, a list of the things that I’d like to change about myself. And always, always at the top of that list: my emotions.

Because ever since I can remember, I’ve felt like my emotions have been out of control. I’ve always laughed too hard, cared too deeply, cried too often. Always. Everything I did had feeling, emotions coming from my very core, every joy and hurt realized deep in my soul. No one ever told me outright, but in some way I always felt set apart from my friends – though they obviously had feelings, they never seemed to be overcome by them like I was. Everything and everyone affected me. At first it was okay; I was only a child, a child with what my mother called a special heart. But suddenly I grew up, and my special heart started to feel less and less like a treasure and more and more like trash.

And so one night I made a decision, a secret agreement: I’m too much.

Three words. Three little words, the smallest lie, planted in my heart. The lie didn’t stay small; it quietly grew and grew and grew, manifesting into a whole forest of distortion. I wasn’t just too much, I was hypersensitive, I was dramatic, I was hysterical. I couldn’t trust any emotion I had because I was convinced a part of my heart was broken, defective. Even though I had been a Christian my whole life, I began to simultaneously follow this ‘too-much’ faith, a faith that I believed with my whole entire heart. It veiled everything I saw, everything I did, everything I felt. Instead of every emotion being beautiful, I saw all my emotions as being ugly, something I had to hide from everyone. 

That’s not to say I became emotionless. A completely irrational fear, I believed that the only way people would love me was if I only allowed them to see me in small quantities, with the correct amount of feeling. Every time an emotion –good or bad – came up, I just desperately tried to stifle it, contain it in a pretty little box. And if I couldn’t control them, if my emotions became too big and I was vulnerable in any way, I would mentally berate myself without mercy: Jilly, you shouldn’t be so _____. ”Shouldn’t” became the god I followed, and I followed his every rule ever so faithfully.

But then I studied abroad in Granada, Spain, for a semester last year. And in my first two months away, the life I had so carefully constructed began to fall apart. In just two short months, my boyfriend broke up with me and immediately found a new girlfriend, my cousin died in a terrible car accident a couple days before she would’ve started college, and my two very best friends struggled to survive, one battling severe OCD, the other falling into a two-and-a-half week coma after a grand mal seizure. For a girl who worked so hard to contain her emotions, I was completely overwhelmed. A whole ocean away, I cannot even begin to describe to you the depth of crippling desolation I experienced, how absolutely helpless and alone I felt. My special heart was struggling to burst out of its pretty prison, and I was struggling to keep it caged. My world literally became too much, and suddenly my ‘too-much’ faith wasn’t making any sort of sense.

It shouldn’t make sense. The veil I looked through for so long was thrown off, and I began to truly see the blatant lie I was functioning under. It wasn’t that I was just hiding my true self from everyone I loved, I was trying to hide it my very own Father. Isn’t that so silly?  Quietly, God began whispering the truth: I’m never too much for Him. God made us for relationship, for emotion. A perpetual good girl, I always read my Bible and tried to understand and implement what it said, but in Spain, I began to read it in a whole new way: instead of finding a faith full of rules, I found a faith full of feeling.

Jesus was FULL of emotion, and he never held any of them back. He was joyful (Luke 21:10), he was righteously angry (Matt. 21:12), he was overcome with sadness (Luke 19:41). The whole Bible, every single book, displays people filled with feeling, trying to figure out how to live in this terribly fallen world. David pours out his heart, Jeremiah grieves, Paul is desperate to bring people to salvation.

The problem, I discovered, wasn’t that my emotions were too much. The problem was that I wasn’t bringing them to God. In a certain sense, I was right: my emotions ARE too much for me. But that does NOT mean they are too much for God. I dishonor my Father when I try to hide them, when I hate my heart instead of celebrating the way He made me. My heart – your heart – is beautiful to God. What I feel, how much I feel – that is His workmanship. Do I still think emotions can be dangerous? Absolutely. But I believe when I’m honest with myself and more importantly, when I’m honest with God, He will save me from that danger.

When I claim Jesus as my Savior, my heart is good. It is the wellspring of life!

Even though it was the most difficult time in my whole 22 years, my time in Spain didn’t destroy me – it saved me. It’s been extremely exhausting, but every day, I uproot the trees in my forest of self-hate. I’m still learning.

But I’ve abandoned my ‘too-much’ faith and embraced the One who reminds me every day of His unfailing love, that my heart is indeed a special heart, emotions and all.


On The Run, In Hiding, And An Attempt To Not Feel

inhiding

Editor’s Note: We are wellsprings of both ache and joy. If I have learned anything about the heart of a woman since beginning this project, it is that we are full. And life comes when we gather the courage to put our silence to rest. God is not afraid of what is in our hearts, even if we are. He created it to be this way, and He said that it is good. Breanna Moret tweets at @imabumblebre and blogs at Breanna Chanel. – Lauren

I have a secret.

I hide from my emotions.

In every day life, I’m the happy-go-lucky girl who always has smiles and laughs to spare. In everyday life, I’m co-director of my on-campus ministry and a small group leader who loves to see my girls discover more about Christ and fall more deeply in love with Him. In everyday life, I’m the girl who loves to rock the dress and curly hair combo. But when I get home, I hide from my emotions. I drown them out with music, ignore them with television shows, bury them with homework. And I do all of this because I’m scared. Scared of what will happen if I finally acknowledge their presence.

I’m angry because my father decided he didn’t want me before he even had the chance to meet me.

I’m insecure because I’ve never had a boy like me the way I’ve always wanted them to.

I’m sad because I don’t look like all the other pretty girls on my campus.

I’m lonely because I don’t have that one confidant to share all my secrets with.

I’m worried because I don’t have even a hint of what I should be doing with my life.

I’m afraid I’m not making an impact in anyone’s life.

I’m annoyed because I don’t always love people the way I should.

I hate myself because I don’t turn to the Lord when I feel all these things.

I’m scared because I don’t think I can tell anyone because they’d never understand.

The list goes on and on. So instead of processing and understanding and getting to the root of all of these, I pretend they’re not there. Because it’s easier. Because being numb is better than feeling pain. Or so I’ve let myself believe over the years. I’ve let myself believe the Enemy when he says that emotions are for the vulnerable and being vulnerable somehow makes me less of a person.

I’ve let myself believe that my Father isn’t enough to overcome the anger and rejection I feel towards my earthly father.

I’ve let myself believe that the love of Christ isn’t enough and that I need the approval of men to feel worthy.

I’ve let myself believe that my identity is found in the size of my jeans and the makeup on my face and not in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

I have let myself believe that God’s presence won’t bring me contentment and that I need that best friend to fill a void of loneliness.

And I’ve let myself believe that I am the only one who thinks this way, feels this way.

But all of those beliefs are wrong. All of those beliefs are meant to keep me buried in myself, suffocating from the emotions I claim aren’t there. And by no means do I believe emotions are bad. They are given to us from God. But letting them run rampant or acting as if they don’t exist affect my relationship with God? That’s where the problem lies. Emotions do not define my truth, God’s Word does. God’s Word is the everlasting truth, the basis on which I build my faith and my life, not my temperamental, change-in-a-moment’s-notice emotions.

The book of Hosea tells the story of the prophet Hosea, whom the Lord told to marry the prostitute Gomer. Gomer is unfaithful to her husband, but he loves her in spite of all she does. It’s a reflection of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, but it’s also a reflection of my relationship with God. I continually reject the love and mercy offered to me freely, returning to a life of sin and heartache. However, my favorite verse offers a promise. In chapter 2, verse 19, it says, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” Me and you, we are betrothed to Him forever.

I know the Lord is waiting for me, waiting for me to come and lay my burdens at His feet and He will receive me with love and compassion because His word tells me so.

So I choose that life. I choose a life where I am betrothed to Him forever. I choose a life where I feel my emotions, the good and the bad, with Him at my side. I choose a life where I don’t hide from my emotions, where I don’t run away in trepidation, but a life where I continually and repeatedly bring to Him all that I feel and see that in light of all that I know.

Good Women Project’s very own Lauren Dubinsky wrote this line in one of her stunning blog posts that pierced me with its simplicity and truth, “We forget what he has done when we do not intentionally sit at his feet in our mess.”

I want to be intentional and sit in my mess of emotions at His feet. And I want to do it with you. Will you choose this life with me?


Emotions: On Female Bread-Winners And Hard-Fought Contentment

womanguitar

Editor’s Note: I don’t want to add a single word to Leslie’s post below. Read it, and read it again. Share it with the newlyweds or not-so-newlyweds in your life. Leslie Lee blogs about faith, creativity, and life at leslielaughs.com and tweets at @leslielaughs. – Lauren

Right now, I’m the main bread-winner for our family.

My husband hates that I have to write that sentence.

And me?

I hate the emotional strife this sometimes leads to in our marriage.
I hate that sinking dread that precedes looking up the checking account balance.
I hate it when people think I must be unhappy because of where we are in life.

The thing is, I am happy, and I’m finally starting to see that this season in life has taught us invaluable lessons that we would not have learned on an easier road. We’ve learned to fight against resistance, to push into honesty, to pursue sacrifice, and to protect each other for the world-weariness that can tear so fast so deep.

My husband is still working on his degree, and he also works a labor-intensive full-time job to help us pay the bills. I’ve graduated and am working at a great job. So, we still live in the college town that I moved to back in 2005.

Four years here has turned into… more.
Four years has turned into waiting and learning.
Four years has turned into calling this season of in-between home, sweet home.

And me and In-between? We’re BFFs now, after being frenemies for quite a while.

Honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve learned to deal with In-between. I think the keys have been, one, learning the importance of remembering that my husband and I are on the same team and, two, realizing the power of hard-fought contentment.

The fact is that genuine contentment doesn’t come easy. For me, longing to start a family and start “putting down roots” can throw me down quick into a deep, dark hole of discontentment. Losing sleep, pounding my fists against the wall of In-between, turning God-given longings into childish whining – it can weigh me down all at once.

But eventually my fists get sore and I recognize familiar, insidious discontentment.

It seeps through the cracks in your heart, eventually making you unhappy about everything – dirty dishes, hopes, apartments, babies, cars, parties, jobs, carpet—it all gets sucked in and labeled NOT WHAT I WANT.

But by the grace of God, instead of hanging out with my NOT WHAT I WANT label-maker, these days I’m holding tight to a pieced-together, mismatched, fragile hem of hard-fought contentment.

My contentment is frayed on the edges and worn in the middle because my emotions are emotions: they can build up or tear down, they can point to issues or conceal them. They can help me identify problems, deeply feeling both the good and the bad, and they can help me listen to my intuition as a woman. But, when I take them to be absolute truth, putting my very heavy hope in what my feelings say, tightly hoarding them up into a layer of faux protection, I actually open myself up to discontentment. In-between starts to look like an attack against me and my beautifully orchestrated plans that must be God’s will.

Thankfully, finally, by God’s grace I’ve learned to make nice with In-between. And it’s a good thing too, because life is a long series of in-betweens. Life doesn’t always fall into our pre-scheduled blocks. Expectations fail and we find ourselves floundering in the In-between.

‘Arriving’ and finally getting to where you want to be in life is contrived. I think that as a culture, we usually get to one milestone and sit and enjoy it for about a second, only to quickly move on and set our eyes on the next milestone – because that next step will surely, surely make all of life better.

What we sometimes forget is how much shaping and learning goes on during these in-between times. The habits you make in the in-betweens will not magically evaporate when you get where you want to be.

So, I try hard to remember that the perseverance we’re cultivating now will serve us so much better than sitting unhappy until we get to that next milestone. We actually haven’t hit any huge milestones since we got married a year and a half ago. We’ve seen tons of sweet, small successes, and we’ve celebrated those together. We’re having fun, trucking along in this hybrid adult/college student season. Sometimes we screw up. Sometimes the valleys seem long. Sometimes we ask for help. Sometimes I love this season. And sometimes I don’t. But we’re still here, still in the college town, still persevering and learning.

And damnit, that’s okay.

Because I’ve learned that there is no arriving.

Yes, we must cultivate dreams and longings and goals, and we must work hard at them, but I am beginning to learn that the Lord will come through on those when it’s time.

And, even in the midst of His provision, every. single. season. will have its own imperfections and struggles. There will never be a flawless season in your life.

Someday soon, I won’t be main bread-winner for our little family anymore. But, guess what? Life will still be screwy then, too.

So, I say we don’t have to thrash through the In-between, pushing reckless to get to that magical arrival point at any cost, in any condition.

Instead, let’s stick to our guns. While we work hard to move forward, let’s stick to our hard-earned contentment and learn to embrace In-between.


Hearts On Sleeves, Tequila, and Drunken Lips

handsinface

Editor’s Note: Kaleigh Somers is a gem of a girl who blogs pretty much everywhere and rocks my world. Her words are beautiful, and her heart moreso. Her blog is rewritinglife.net and she also writes for HUGStronger.com. You can follow her on twitter: @kaleighsomers. – Lauren

She kept whispering the same haunting phrase, over and over, across a wide wooden restaurant booth.

“Drunken minds speak sober thoughts,” she said. Drunken minds speak sober thoughts.

Pretty soon I heard the two of them crying – not the wet eyelashes kind, either, but the snotty, sticky mess – about love that falls too short. About boys who stole too much from them. About marriage and living alone, forever, as unlovable women not worth the commitment.

My heart was breaking. Piece by piece cleaving off as I tried to focus on my own conversation with a girl who had run from the only boy who ever loved her.

“I don’t understand how people get married,” she said, whether in response to the two sobbing seniors sitting across from us, or just because she had wondered –we believed – this very thing for countless nights holed up in her room.

She has always been the girl who does not cry. The girl who holds herself inside, tucked beneath a bedroom floor filled with too many shirts and pants and unopened boxes of granola bars and textbooks she’s never read. The girl we do not know.

Later that night, when we arrived home, the drunken-words, sober-thoughts girl sat on the couch and began to cry again. Her whole body shaking. Voice wavering. Hands hugging a glass of water. Nose red.

Still, she tried to understand why anyone would hold all the bad inside until they had just a few more shots of tequila running through their veins. Why the world was full of broken people. Why boys sometimes stole hearts right from girls’ chests when they were too busy beautifying themselves for a date with him.

I repeated a mantra I’ve learned to be true: You are enough. You do enough. You try enough.

Out loud, I told her we can change the world. One person at a time.

She shook her head at that. Said she didn’t have the right words to heal girls who had been down that road. Too far down a road she didn’t know. A road where boys take what they want and do not say “please” or “thank you”.

Then, the non-crier, the girl who stacked her feelings up inside her chest and buried the rest beneath her bedroom floor, started dripping mascara down her pale cheeks.

“Does the ‘P’ in PMS stand for ‘pre’ or ‘post’?” she asked.

‘Pre’, we said.

“So this is compassion I’m feeling?”

And then she laughed. The girl with her heart hidden. The girl who tucked emotions into her pocket and put those pants through the dryer, hoping they might get taken like misfit socks sometimes do.

I have learned to carry my heart on my sleeve because I do not know how else to comfort the girls who lose too much too soon. I do not know how to stop them from feeling like less than enough unless I pick their sorrows up off the bedroom floor and pluck them down in my own heart.

And for me, that has always been more than okay. That has always been the only way to live in this messy, soggy, heart-broken world.

I am trying to teach, begging to reveal, to the girl who hides herself until she’s had a few drinks, that living with your heart in the palm of your hands is much better than never feeling anything at all. It’s much better than hoping the tequila shots kick in so that honesty can unfold itself from the crooks of her drunken lips.

I am hoping, this time, she is listening.


I’ve Been Using Music To Amplify My Toxic Emotions

headphonesgirl

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Jen Sorenson. I love this post. I’ve never been anti-secular or an only-listen-to-super-Christian-music believer, but it is true that the music we let soak into our skin directly affects our emotional health. For the rest of this month, I challenge you to be intentional with the music you listen to! Eliminate a few bands, find some new ones. And let us know how it goes! – Lauren

This summer was a very emotional summer for me. There were times when I felt completely trapped by my emotions and that they were too overwhelming to even comprehend anymore. I didn’t like this, so I did some serious thinking and came to some conclusions that have made a big impact in my life.

I realized that ever since junior high, I have been using music to affirm and amplify my toxic emotions. By toxic, I mean negative emotions that have the potential to do some serious harm if left unchecked.

In 8th grade, I fell head-over-heels for my best guy friend who didn’t like me back. I felt so much sadness, heartbreak, and pain over this first “unrequited love” — and what did I turn to? Emotional music. When I felt like it was the end of the world because this boy didn’t like me back, the music told me that nothing else mattered besides this boy and how he felt about me.

I would play my favorite songs on repeat every night as I cried into my pillow, never realizing that the music was really making everything feel more intense than it actually was. Was my sadness justified? Sure. It is sad when you’re 13 and really like someone who doesn’t like you back. But is it worth hours and hours of tears and so much wasted energy? No. My emotions might have been easier to handle if I hadn’t made them feel so much bigger with sad music.

This pattern continued through high school. When I felt lost, like I had no friends and nobody cared, I listened to sad songs that made me feel like I was right — nobody did care. I was all alone. Instead of finding constructive ways to face loneliness or turning to God for comfort, I embraced the loneliness and let it define me. Music was my primary method for this. I always wanted to listen to songs where I could relate to the lyrics, but this wasn’t really doing me any good. It only kept me where I was and didn’t encourage any growth or positive change. Instead of going out and trying to make new friends and believing that I was worthwhile and had something to offer, I became more withdrawn, and my loneliness spiraled out of control.

My husband and I had a pretty rocky start to our marriage, and by the time four years had gone by, I was starting to feel pretty angry toward him and hopeless toward our situation. As my feelings of anger, resentment, and hopelessness grew, I soothed myself by listening to angry and hateful music. Funny enough, my anger just seemed to keep growing. Was all of my anger “wrong”? No, not at all — but the way that I dealt with it was very misguided and unconstructive.

I believe that the music I was turning to as a form of therapy was actually making the feelings much worse. Turning so much to music caused me to focus far more on my emotions than on the actual problems themselves. It was always about how I felt, how I felt, how I felt — never about what was the right or wrong way to react in a situation. Angry and hateful music also amplified my selfish attitude: belief that I was the only one wronged and that I was the one who deserved apologies.

I really began to realize that angry me + angry music = more anger. Why would I ever want that? The point of feeling angry is to find resolution. Resolution based in love and hope. The point is not to increase the anger.

Music, to me, became like that toxic friend who will listen to your complaints and only tell you that your feelings are completely justified. The one who tells you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

In September, I completely cleared my iPod and filled it back up with only positive music that inspires hopeful feelings in me. In the car, I listen to music I never knew existed until recently. My outlook on life has changed dramatically, and my faith has grown so much. I don’t feel overwhelmed by toxic emotions anymore — I still feel sad or angry at times, but it’s like a plant that I’m not watering anymore. The sadness and anger are much easier to handle and are balanced out by so many positive emotions that I didn’t allow myself to feel before.

The other day I was feeling kinda down, and “We Found Love” by Rihanna was playing in the store. I could immediately feel my mood going further downhill. Amazing.

Maybe this is rare, and maybe I’m far more susceptible to negativity from music than the ordinary person is, but I am very thankful to have learned this about myself.


12 Ways To Deal With Emotions From A Grin-And-Bear-It Girl

grinandbearit

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Natalie. She blogs at A Blessed Mess on Tumblr. Do you have anything to add to this list? Any breakthroughs you’ve had in allowing yourself to express what you feel in your chest? Leave them in the comments and we’ll share them on Facebook. – Lauren

We all know the physical side effects of negative emotions. Sleepless nights, anxiety, sick stomach. Binge eating, or not at all. Drinking, or isolation. The list goes on forever.

I’m a grin-and-bear-it kind of girl. The never-let-them-see-you-cry kind of upbringing. So, what happens with all those repressed emotions? The things I feel but can’t say, can’t yell, can’t cry?

Emotions of any significance will not be ignored. They will find a way to be heard. I’m beginning to learn that it’s just up to me to decide how.

Until recently, how I let my emotions be heard was not good. I temporarily ignored my feelings, and my ‘out’ was usually acts of rebellion, destruction, etc. These aren’t easy or nice things to admit. But I think I’m getting down to some kind of miraculous breakthrough – something I should have figured out long ago.

When I look back over the years and think about the times I felt trapped, bullied, backed into a corner, or otherwise unable to express my feelings in a healthy, safe, or comfortable environment – I felt like a caged animal being poked or prodded at for the last time. But I’m not an animal. And I’m passive. I don’t have a violent bone in my body. So when that something inside of me been pushed to it’s limits? I act out in other ways. I chase recklessness.

And so, I have learned to pray. To find the good that comes out of my emotional upheaval, instead of just the bad. As a result, my perspective has changed. Instead of wanting to act out in a destructive way, I’m set on a path to discover the true reason for my unhappiness and a long term solution. Instead of a quick fix.

In the past, when I’ve been hurting because of a bad relationship, my solution has been to go find someone else… quick! Before I have to suffer over the last bad choice I made. I should have removed myself from the bad situation, and waited. Slowed down. Learned. Accepted the pain that comes with the breakup or new loneliness, and used the time to grow.

Did you know the two pillars of mental health are the ability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration?

This is what I wish someone had told me long ago:

1. Question everything. Every thought and statement that runs through your head.

We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

When I catch myself thinking things and saying things in my head that are so mean and spiteful, I know they’re not from my heavenly Father. I know those things come from a place of hurt and resentment. Those thoughts will lead me no where good and certainly no place where I can find peace or happiness.

2. Be the bigger person – ’the better man’, or woman. Show others how to behave by example. One of the greatest feelings is proving someone wrong, in a good way, through love.

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15 NIV)

3. Realize that a lot of your emotional stress comes from irrational fears. I’ve heard it said that “fear not” or “do not be afraid” is listed 365 times in the Bible.

For me, my irrational fears sound something like this: What if I can’t make this new job work and something terrible happens? What if I’m not a good mom and something terrible happens? What if I don’t make my boyfriend happy and…? This type of thinking causes a majority of the emotional stress and heartache we experience.

4. Talk to someone. This does not mean emotionally puke all over your loved ones or perfect strangers. It means you engage in a good conversation with someone you trust, whether it’s a friend or a professional, where you can be open and honest without fear of judgement or condemnation.

Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power. (Proverbs 8:14 NIV)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Proverbs 19:20 NIV)

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 11:14 NIV)

5. Get away! If you are going to implode, politely excuse yourself and find someplace you can be alone with God. Take a walk, drive, whatever. Go pray, scream, cry, etc.

6. Journal. I can not say enough about how therapeutic writing down your thoughts are. You’ll discover about yourself after writing down your thoughts.

7. Have faith and confidence in yourself even when others don’t.

8. Have a creative outlet, a way to express yourself in a healthy, productive way. Painting, kick boxing, gaming or making sushi at home. Find something you love to do that you can get lost in for a little while. Everyone needs to be able to forget about their immediate crisis.

9. Spend time with those who love, support, and encourage you. Spend time with people who love you for you. People you don’t have to impress, who think you’re the biggest dork and love you all the more for it. These are the people who could care less how successful you are, or the mistakes you’ve made. These people are the blessings God gives you, to remind you He loves you and is always here for you.

10. Remember that everything is temporary. Except God’s love. That’s eternal.

11. Help others.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:4 NIV)

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV)

12. Acceptance. After you’ve soul searched, talked it out, written it down, prayed, expressed yourself creatively, and spent good quality time with those who love you – the last thing is to accept what you are feeling. Accept that it might not change. That despite our little control-freak lives, we may have to leave it in God’s hands. You have to accept that you tried your best, and trust God that there’s a bigger plan at work.

 


Fear, Lies, And Being Scared Of Everything

YOUNG WOMAN

Editor’s Note: Thank you for being so patient with us as we adjust to big changes in the new year! Have you met our new team yet? Go say hello to them! Today’s post is by Leeann. She blogs here and tweets at @leeleegirl4. – Lauren

When I saw the topic for the month of January, I immediately thought about fear.

I have learned how to deal with happiness, sadness, anger, and jealousy – but fear has always been a problem of mine. I have let my fear control my life.

When I was a kid at school, I would think about every possible worst case scenario and be absolutely convinced that they were all going to happen to me. For example, I was afraid to sleep over at my grandmother’s house because I was convinced that lions were going to get me. It made absolutely no sense. There were no wild lions roaming in New Jersey! There were certainly no lions that knew how to unlock doors. And yet, inexplicable relief came over me when I learned that the scary noise was not lions, but just the heater turning on.

One might think that as I realized these outrageous scenarios were not going to happen to me, I would be okay. Fear is not an emotion that can be controlled by reasonable thought. I had hoped my fears would lessen in number as I grew up, but my fears only grew deeper as I matured. Instead of scary lions and loud noises, I was afraid of the dangers of the world.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to overcome my fears. But did you know that no shortcoming can be overcome by itself? It needs something greater and more powerful than itself. I found the greatest tool ever when I was twelve, but I did not yet understand how to use it. I chose to personally believe the faith I had grown up seeing, but I did not understand there was more to ‘faith’ than a simple prayer.

My parents had taken me to church pretty much every Sunday. I chose to believe in God before I knew what else was out there. I did not understand that God wanted to change me, to challenge me, to force my faith to grow. As a freshman in high school, I found the first key to unlocking the puzzle of fear. I found a Bible verse about defeating fears. I immediately adopted this as ‘my’ verse.

I thought that praying one time, at church, would eliminate all my fears forever. Words cannot describe the disappointment I felt a few days later when I realized that was not the case. I hated it. I didn’t want fear to rule my life. Fear took the fun out of everything.

I was scared of new opportunities. I was scared of failing and ruining my perfect image. I was scared of being forgotten. I was scared of rejection. I was scared of missing something great. I struggle with fears of potential car accidents and being hurt by my friends. I am scared right now as I write this post.

I was jealous of all those who looked like their life was put together. I was jealous of their confidence. I was jealous of those who got what I wanted. I felt like a total mess.

Remember the tool I mentioned earlier to overcome fear? Faith. But a tool is only as good as one’s knowledge of using that tool. It has taken me years to understand just enough about the nature of God to use my faith as a tool. And it is more of a weapon really. Faith comes with great power, if we can only learn to trust beyond what we can see.

Fears come mainly from the lies we believe. We could choose to give in to them or see them for what they really are. That fear of rejection? It is really saying that I don’t think I am important unless you say I am. The truth is, our worth does not depend on a single other person.

The fear of missing out on life? That is saying that I am being ungrateful for all that I do have. Lies. I don’t have to believe these lies and neither do you. The fear of tragedy is just a lack of faith that God will see us through our darkest nights. Saying that we don’t believe God will be present through the potential worst.

These fears did not develop in a day, and it takes a long time to come to terms with unreasonable fear. There are indeed some things in life that should rightly be feared, but they are far fewer than we think.

It is a daily struggle to choose God’s truth over the world’s lies. If it was up to me alone, I would fail. I am not alone and neither are you. Part of being a community is sharing our weaknesses and learning how to be strong together. Together, along with some faith, we can beat our fears.


Emotions: When The First Month Of Marriage Isn’t Bliss

angry-couple-in-bed

Editor’s Note: In my first month of marriage, I learned that marriage is full of highs and lows. All-consuming joy, and fully-felt pain. We’ve all heard that marriage is difficult, but when ‘difficult’ makes its way into the bedroom, the emotions run rampant. Alyssa Ferrero shares a little of her just-married story. She blogs at Alyssa Mae Stories. – Lauren

What’s a girl to do when the weight of her past, her upbringing, and the unforgiving disappointments of her hopeful future come crashing down the day after her wedding?

Well, cry, I suppose.

And what’s a girl to do when the God she had so recently fallen in love with, entrusted her life to, and finally begun to know, walks her through a journey that seems meant for a more mature, more experienced, more faithful, and more knowledgeable woman?

Cry a little more, I think.

I had been dreaming of my wedding day and being a wife since I can remember. It probably stems from the ‘chick-flicks’ and Disney fairytales I’d been watching from day one. Or, perhaps it was the desire to have a home and babies and a ‘grown-up life’. Whatever the reason, when I met him – my husband – I knew for sure he was the ticket to those fantasies. I saw us having a truly wonderful life, fulfilling big dreams, having lots of babies, great careers, and a cozy home.

The day of our wedding, harsh realities hit. Many things reared their ugly heads that day and that night, things that cannot be publicly displayed, for respect of people’s privacy and privacy for marriage. But let me just say that my husband and I still have not had intimacy in our marriage. Oh, and we’re seeing a marriage counselor. That started two months into our marriage.

While my girlfriends and their friends and complete strangers talk about their newlywed life in terms of “utter bliss”, “the best time of their lives”, and “making out in the parking lot”, I am here, crying and hurting, and so obviously jealous and angry. Two very unattractive emotions.

What’s a girl to do when her entire being, down to her inner-most depths, aches? When her heart feels more broken than ever? Or when she feels like her hopes and dreams have vanished? What’s a girl to do when her emotions are overtaking her, and her God feels so far away?

I have learned that ultimately, it’s not about what we want out of life, but what He wants for us. It’s not about what makes us feel good, because He makes us feel better. It’s not about the easy road, because His road is paved with grace, mercy, and a whole lotta love.

While it may not feel good right now, what He is doing in us is good. A kind of good we can trust.

We were made with a passion and a heart to heal the world. We yearn for great love and peace and unity. Our emotions speak of what our hearts are made of. And our hearts are made from God. Our hearts are a direct reflection of His character.

So, then what? It’s easy to say those things. It’s easy to try and write them on a sticky or put them in a journal to remind yourself. To try to trust God more. But what about living it? What about the crap that no one told you about?

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Common to mankind. Temptation, hurt, suffering, tears, heartache; they’re all common to all of us. Emotions are common to us. And God knows that.

I believe that God can see and feel every emotion I encounter today. He’s holding these tears because he knows my sorrows and my hurts. And the guilt of feeling these emotions does not come from a God who loves me so. He does not condemn me for wanting to jump on the next train to St. Louis. He does not turn away from me because I spend many minutes a day wondering how and if I will survive this.

Instead, He asks me to fully trust Him. He waits for me to leave those fears in the garbage where they belong, and watch Him fight this battle for me. (Exodus 14:14) He waits for me to rest in His arms.

I grew up on emotions; what feels good, what makes you happy, and so on. I lived my live trying to find true happiness, and letting my emotional heart lead the way. And just when I thought I’d found those things, they slipped away, didn’t they? I took so many wrong turns and chose quite a few ‘false happiness’ things before I started running the other way, to Him. And now, He wants me running, harder and faster.

I want to surrender in all the wrong ways. I want out of this mess. I want a different life. But my Father does not disown me, put me in a corner, or abandon me because I feel these things.

He guides me, with a soft hand, right back to His arms, where he comforts me. Where he soothes my emotions with truth and love. He does this because, well, He created me this way.

He adores the passion and desire I have for good things. He just wants to give me something passionate and desirable of His own creation.


Your Emotions And Your Heart Are Not Your Enemies

woman_jumping

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by a man who is very dear to me, Bob Hamp. He married me and my husband this year, and is author of Think Differently, Live Differently. His book will change your life. My whole life, I believed that I could not trust my heart. That it was a thing to be hidden, feared, and ‘fixed’ by my righteous life. I believed that what is right and wrong would make God more proud of me, that I would be a better daughter, a better reflection of Jesus. It wasn’t until I understood this, what Bob writes about, that I fell in love with God – and in so doing, found my purpose, my life, and my joy. – Lauren

I cannot count the number of soul-sick people I have spoken to who have allowed their heart to slide into numbness, or death, and even in some cases, tried to strangle their heart. And all this in the name of serving the God who put their heart in them in the first place. The trap comes easily when we read scripture piecemeal, and or when we read through the lenses of certain religious dogma.

Jeremiah 17:9 declares firmly, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” So we read and jump to the conclusion that our heart is an obstacle to be overcome and an enemy to be defeated.

This idea is fed by the commonly held and taught mantra that Christians often repeat. “Your emotions will lie to you!” we warn one another. And with these two ideas, we go into one of the most deadly places we can, we retreat into denial. We bury, swallow, repress our heart and all of its attendant responses and connections.

The problem is, what do we do then with the verse in Proverbs 4:23 that tells us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life”? What if, in the name of serving God, we completely repress that part of us, which is designed to be the headwaters of the life of God Himself? Let me answer the “what if?” question. Stifle your heart, and one day it will lead to a collapse that Isaiah 30 describes as a breach in a wall, whose collapse comes suddenly and in an instant. Try to stifle the waters of a river, and one day the waters will overpower the very dam constructed to hold them back, and the waters intended to bring life can bring, instead, destruction.

The truth is, YOUR EMOTIONS WILL NOT LIE TO YOU. Your emotions will, in fact, always tell you the truth about what you believe (Proverbs 23:7). It is the lies that cause negative emotions, not the other way around. If you ignore your emotions because you have been told it is a Godly thing to do, you will miss out on a God-given indicator to help you know what exactly is hidden in this mysterious heart of yours. Like the flashing light on your dashboard, your emotions are a signal to indicate to you a belief that exists somewhere under the hood.

Let’s examine the setup, and then the solution.

The setup begins with the fall of man (as does every other human struggle). Adam and Eve discover their nakedness. Their newly engorged knowledge of evil informs them of their condition, and they look down and feel shame. The problem is compounded when their knowledge of good tells them what they should do about the ‘evil’ their minds perceive. Their knowledge of good tells them to hide. Whether it is fig leaves, Eden’s shrubbery, or their outright blame of everyone but themselves, Adam and Eve begin a complex set of defenses to numb the pain of their shame and their knowledge of evil.

Hence, years later, after David in the Psalms has referred to “the inward parts” of our heart, or our “hidden places”, Jeremiah can rightly tell us that the heart is deceitful and wicked. He then asks and answers the question, “Who can know it?” Who, indeed, Jerry tells us, God Himself searches and responds to what He finds in the hidden heart. But Jeremiah refers to the condition of the heart in the moment of his writing. What he does not do is write prophetically about God’s intent to do something about that condition. That privilege comes later to Ezekiel, who tells us in Ezekiel 11:19 that a day is coming when God Himself will remove the heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart, a heart of flesh. In other words, Ezekiel tells of a day which is coming (and is now here) when God will replace the desperately sick with the new creation.

Salvation is God giving us a new nature, not a new set of expectations. When Jesus comes into your heart, it is a new and regenerate heart that He enters.

At this point, we have so often partnered with the ‘hiddenness’ of our hearts that we turn our eyes away. We strangle our hearts with sin, and then after our salvation we often strangle our hearts with the guilt and shame of believing we are still desperately wicked. Now, whether it be fig leaves or religious dogma, we still run and hide, afraid that if we look at our hearts we will again be flooded with shame and fear.

The result? The heart is no longer wicked, but it remains a hidden thing. The heart is deceitful not in the sense that it is a wicked liar, but in the sense that we have been trained by life, fear and church life, to remain covered up. The key difference is that if we look now, and ask the One who knows it to begin to show us our new hearts, we would actually begin to discover the regenerating power of the resurrection has been at work in our own hearts. Sure, we might struggle a bit as we look at the layers of darkness we have wrapped around our heart, but the fundamental truth of our salvation is that God has put a new heart in us. If you are willing to look, He is willing to show you.

Here is the bottom line. It is in and through our hearts that we connect to, and receive from God. Hence we should tend to our hearts above all else, because when it is properly attached to its source it will be in us the headwaters of living water. When we bury it and choke it off because we have only read Jeremiah’s description, we choke out the very life-giving, revelation-producing presence and voice of God. When we do that, all we are left with is our knowledge of good and evil.

Try this if you dare. Pray this simple, yet courageous prayer.

“God, if you show me, I will look.”

For more on this topic click here and scroll to the bottom to the audio entitled “The Hidden Heart”.

Also, read “The Journey of Desire” by John Eldredge.


Drama Queen: My Battle With PMDD

inshower

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written Katey Kerman. She blogs at Stretching Faith. I’ve lived my entire life never knowing what PMDD is or what it feels like. After reading this post, I know people in my life that have it. It’s a worthwhile and beautiful read. Katey also wrote a phenomenal post on serial flirting for us, called Chase Me If You Can. – Lauren

The lump in my throat reminded me of the battle I just lost. The tears streaming down my face told the story of my fighting my way out of what felt like a paper bag. My phone laid, shattered in pieces, across the floor from where I had collapsed in the shower. I could barely move.

My head is empty. I don’t quite remember turning the showerhead on, but there it is, pounding against the porcelain floor. I slip off my clothes disparagingly, avoiding the mirrors that surround and taunt me. The sound of the water hitting the empty shower creates a cocoon of white noise that my body finds comfort in. I move quietly into the rain so as to not disturb the cocoon and soon after begin to melt. The water beats down warmly against my skin, and I am amazed that I still feel nothing.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Dysfunction (PMDD).

My body aches as I stand, and soon I find I have no effort or energy left to do so. Before I know it, I am sitting, watching the water come down at me. I shut my eyes and see darkness, but my soul fills up with the sense of freedom. What am I free from? What has chased me into the darkness of my own thoughts? Nothing. No response or inner stirrings make themselves present. To the world I am just a thoughtless girl sitting in a shower. Thoughtless and juvenile. I hold my legs close to my body and am reminded of a small child that tries very hard to collapse into a perfect ball after being placed in time out. This image wouldn’t exactly count as consolation, but it helps as I try so hard to hold back the flimsy tears that sear my disconnected eyes. I breathe. Deeply. In and out. Keeping my face lifted towards the water. The water gives me solace. It feels like a distant memory, washing over my shattered body.

Up until I was 20 years old, I struggled with understanding how other women dealt with PMS, never realizing I was different.

I taste salt in my mouth. I must be crying again. I’m sure my make-up is running. I wipe my eyes and lean over to the faucet to switch it from shower to bath. The waterfall that gushes out in front of my eyes keeps me entranced for a good 10 minutes. For an instant I am taken out of the scene and picture how perfectly “Wes Anderson” this moment might appear to an onlooker. I often feel like a walking monologue, a sad independent film that people wish to be a part of but rarely watch. It’s because of this thought that I truly understand. I’m nothing special. I’m just a girl trying to make it through this world so that I can humbly enter the next. I turn the water off and lie down. Fetal position. I can’t see clearly as I gaze at the cream-colored bed I have chosen for myself, but I can feel the tears trickling across my nose and into the pool of water I’m lying in. I don’t feel depressed or sad, but I know that I am. Yet there are no thoughts racing through my head. No worrisome dialogue. There is simply nothing. Exhaustion. Mental and physical. I want to be left alone for a while. I need to feel empty. As I lie in silence, I imagine that as I get up, all the water will fall from my body, and this weight will be lifted. I’ll smile and laugh and feel alive again. I like to imagine simple things will have a significantly positive impact on my life. It’s the only way to live. To hope. To live in optimism. To smile all the live-long day. It’s also tiring….

From the age of 10, for two weeks out of each month, I was gripped by an uncontrollable demon. In this possessed state I would suddenly lose control over my emotions, finding myself blinded by passion that was inexplicably authentic yet triggered by seemingly nothing. One minute I could be laughing, and the next I would be collapsed into tears. Sometimes I would get depressed, vulnerable, desolate and weak… then within seconds become furious with the person in closest proximity to me.

But life is tiring, isn’t it?

At the time, my parents didn’t know what to do with me and, in all honesty, deep down, I was ashamed for the way I behaved. But, yet, I couldn’t explain where the surge of depression, rage and emotional exhaustion had come from.

I had always been labeled as “sensitive,” but this was something different. This was uncontrollable, and it was slowly killing me.

I was drained. I was tired. All I knew was that I wanted to disappear…

Depression was known to run in my family. My mother would often console me with such comments as “Yes, yes… my sisters used to get this way when they PMSed too…” but each month I felt a little more afraid of myself. A little more terrified of the person that might come out.

I hurt people. I hurt myself. In those two weeks each month, living was a burden.

Finally, I had the common sense to ask questions. And before I knew it, there was a new label for why I couldn’t control myself. And attached to that, a sense of fear for being broken but equally a sense of hope for being “cured.”

I took the pills, I made the effort, I did the work, but nothing seemed to help. On the medication I was emotionless, and off the medication I was a mess.

I began feeling as though there was no escaping the hell of this hormonal imbalance.

It took many fights, tears, broken phones and scream-fests for me to hit rock bottom. But when I finally hit, that day that I found myself drowning the rage and depression of my current situation by hiding in my porcelain coffin, I gave myself room to breathe and began to reassess.

By the grace of God, I stood up and began looking at myself in a new way. That day, I would choose to be perfectly created. No more “broken Katey.” Being “sensitive” wasn’t a disease, and I wouldn’t let my emotional capacity cripple me. I took my emotional energy and threw it into doing good. Helping others. Making people smile. Working out. Acting. Writing. Reading. Sharing. Being. Loving.

Finding joy.

It hasn’t been an easy journey. Far from it, in fact. But what I’ve learned is so critical: while we are all capable of emotional chaos, we are just as capable of finding strength to pull ourselves up. Even more than that — there are people out there that want to help. Whether you’re struggling with life or simply have a blessed capacity for feeling, you are never alone.


Emotions: The Difference Between Feelings And Lies

Editor’s Note: Happy New Year, everyone! We’re launching 2012 with a topic that affects every single one of us women, in some way or another: Emotions. If you want to share what you do with them in your life, and what you’ve learned about them, please check out the contribute page. Today’s post was written by Kayte Grace. She blogs at Long City Walks and you can check out her music at Kayte Grace Music. – Lauren

I used to let my emotions run around in my head like bad kids in a nice restaurant: yelling, tripping, disrupting, and breaking things. But I’ve learned that sometimes I’ve just got to tell them to shut it and sit in the corner.

I’ve always been a person who is ruled by emotions. I’m a singer/songwriter, so feeling things (and making you feel them) is basically how I pay my rent. Before that, I acted for 15 years on TV and in commercials. Feelings.

I’ve always been emotionally impressionable. As a child, movies on TV that showed slaves being beaten would ruin my sleep. At 11 years old, I cried after watching a season of Popstars because I knew that music was what I wanted to do. My parents told me that I get so happy when I cook that I’m literally singing out loud and don’t realize it. I nearly lost my mind once sitting in a meeting next to a friend who was frustrated with how it was being led – the energy she was giving off was so strong I almost imploded, and no one else seemed to notice. I consider myself a master ‘vibe sniffer’. And to top it all off, I’m an ENFP, which might as well stand for Emotionally Neurotic Female Person.

Powerful emotions make me research how much it would cost to get my homeless friend a bus ticket to Cleveland to see family, and to want to pay for it. At the same time, emotions sometimes cripple my ability to live well and securely. I’ll feel so guilty for not wanting to go to corporate prayer before church that I slog through half a day turning my decision not to go over and over in my mind.

One day, I found myself sitting on the couch a half hour before I was supposed to lead a women’s Bible study in my apartment. I had recently gone through a breakup, and I felt like someone had punched me in the face. Lies started pouring in, one after another: “You are rejected. Rejected. Not chosen. This isn’t what was supposed to happen. Your life is off-track. God brought you to this teeny apartment in a scary neighborhood knowing that living near your boyfriend was the only thing that made it bearable, and then He ripped that comfort from your hands and abandoned you here. There’s no point in you being here. And why would God even lead you into a relationship He knew would fail and make you miserable?”

Then, the Holy Spirit reminded me that there’s a difference between letting myself “feel my feelings” and sitting around nodding in agreement while the Devil lies right to my face.

So I lit some smell-good candles.
Made green tea.
Sat back down and breathed really slowly and deeply.

And I asked myself, “What do I know FOR SURE?”

“The person who loves me like a raging fire has all of the power… over the entire universe and everything in it.”

“His goal is not to screw me over – He’s using every situation to make my soul beautiful. More like Christ.”

And that was that.

I established some truth I could stand on.

“Now everything that I don’t know for sure, you need to make an orderly exit from my head. Right now.”

Freedom in truth. Freedom in standing up for myself. Freedom in feeling what is true instead of what is a lie.