Tuesday, December 12, 2017
“Mama, can I wash my jersey?”
“Hey, where’s my wallet?”
“Probably in your backpack.”
“No, it’s not there. I already looked…”
“Mama, I forgot my saxophone at home, can you bring it to the school?”
“Mama, what soap do I use?”
“I found my wallet.”
“Where was it?”
“In my backpack.”
“Mama, how do I get this washer started?”
“I don’t need any help with math.”
“Then, why do you have a D?”
After naming our feelings, author Holley Gerth advices to pray that God helps us recognize the source from which those feelings and emotions are emerging. In page 76 of her book, she refers to the “immediate why,” the current issue, not the long-term, long-ago cause. Why am I so irritable right now? Why am I annoyed at my kids at this moment? Why did I just lose it? In my case, probably because I’m tired and hungry.
The author says:
“An immediate why is not about the past. It’s about right now. It’s valid at times to analyze those deeper “why” questions. But I firmly believe that it’s best not to do that on our own – and especially not when we’re stressed.” (76)
Once we identify the “immediate why” of our current emotional state, the next step is to “figure out what I actually need.” (76)
This is a very practical advice which can save a lot of bitterness and ugly moments in my house. If I can pause long enough to name what I’m feeling and find out what is triggering it at that moment, I can do something about it!
Some examples of needs could be: sleep, food, companionship, help, or truth. In the book, the author says to ignore our mind’s first suggestions such as “cookies, slapping someone or running away to Hawaii,” but I have to say that a cookie might save lives in my case. So, I might not slap someone (too hard) or run to Hawaii, other than in my imagination, but I might go take a nap if I’m tired, or I might have a bite to eat if that’s what’s causing the issue at the moment. I suffer from “hanger” (anger while hungry) so sometimes, a cookie might solve it!
But anyway, we will continue with the rest of the steps on the next post. Right now, I have paused long enough to identify that I am hungry, so I’m going to go and have a piece of chocolate…
Activating my God-given, internal stop light called the Holy Spirit, by hiding more and more Scripture into my heart takes time and intentionality. However, it is so very important for volatile people like me to not skip this step. The Spirit floods me with the Word at exactly the right moment when I need it most. He creates a perfect “flow” of Bible verses to settle my nerves and allow me the strength to pause long enough so I can name the feelings I’m experiencing.
Naming the feeling is important because it gives me a level of control and ownership over them. Naming something or someone is a powerful act of authority. He/she who names the pet, owns it, right? He/she who names her emotions, may be closer to be able to control them. In other words, if we are able to exert authority over our emotions, we have most of the battle won…because we would be more apt to master them, rather than letting them master us.
None of these things are automatic, though. They develop over time and through constant prayer and intentionality. That’s where patience comes in handy. Praying without ceasing for the Lord to grow the fruits of the Spirit within us is a must.
It’s not magic…it’s life. Therefore, let’s not be so hard on ourselves that we stop trying…I’m talking to myself here…
The thing is that we should not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6: 9)
When we have set backs, and we will, instead of letting the enemy win as we quit; we need to persevere, repent and pray! We need to give ourselves a break and move on. Otherwise, we would be letting the enemy gain more of a foothold in us…
So, let’s not despair and continue to lift up our heads and our hearts to the Lord of All who reigns in our lives and is the King of all that we are. He will not leave us in the pit. He will pull us out again, and again until that glorious day when we see Him face to face.
Dylan has already made about 5 Christmas lists. I find them everywhere. He just wants to make sure I don’t miss them, so he makes several versions and strategically places them all over the house. Grant, however, is a different story. He doesn’t even want to make a list. I have to guess what he might want. He keeps saying he doesn’t want anything. I love that about Grant, he is really not into the materialistic aspect of this world. But that doesn’t help me! I need to get him something, so I spend a lot of time searching through the mother of all online stores: Amazon.com
Gosh…what don’t they have in there? Sometimes I think that if it isn’t in Amazon.com it doesn’t exist! It’s awful! But I’m hooked. I’ve been searching and searching, until finally I think I found a few things I think Grant might enjoy. Now…this searching, brings me back to the book You’re Going to Be Okay…
In the book, author Holley Gerth says that naming our feelings will move the emotions we are experiencing into a more rational/reason-oriented part of our brain, which will help us tame them a bit. In my case, however, how do I make myself stop long enough so I can examine my feelings and identify them?
I need a stop light.
Hmmmm…. Where do I get one of those for my heart? I wonder if Amazon has it?
Maybe, there is an app for it?
Nope again…or should I say: “not yet”? Someone will come up with some kind of app that sounds an alarm in your phone when it senses you are getting “emotional.”
Anyway, that won’t work for me, since I don’t have my phone in my hand 100% of the time…soooooo…what then?
My stop light is incorporated into my soul. It’s called, The Holy Spirit.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14: 26
I just need to get out of the way and let Him do His thing!
First, I have to ingest Scripture and commit it to memory. I need to be able to proclaim that:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119: 11
That way, I will know that,
…the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30: 14
Then, I will be able to,
…Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD. We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven… Lamentations 3: 40-41
So, the promise of Christ could blossom in my heart:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15: 7
Becoming familiar with the Bible and actually memorizing verses is a practical way for me to be ready as the Holy Spirit brings them to my remembrance during times of trial.
Memorizing Scripture is one of the most powerful ways to activate the internal stop lights in our hearts. That way, the Holy Spirit brings it back even without us consciously thinking about it at the right moment when we need it. But if we don’t have it memorized, it would take the Spirit through unnecessary rerouting which could be avoided if we had Scripture already abiding in us.
Please Lord, open my mind so Your Word may dwell in my heart forever.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4: 23
Where do we start doing our part when it comes to guarding our hearts?
I believe Holley Gerth has good advice on practical steps we can take in order to guard our hearts and begin to restore the balanced and healthy flow of everything we do.
In her book You’re Going to Be Okay, the author talks about how it is helpful and important to first, identify our feelings. We need to name our feelings, put them into objective, concrete words. There is a long list of different feelings on page 75, but there is also a short list of basic 6: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.
While I type this list, I can’t help but to think of the movie Inside Out. I really like that movie. We see there these basic emotions represented, except surprise. Also, in the movie, happiness is Joy. I like that better! The basic premise of the movie is that as we mature, our emotions get more and more complicated because they blend into one another. When we are adults, sadness is often not just pure sadness, but a mix of fear, disgust and also joy. The movie also furthers the idea that often, joy comes after sadness:
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30: 5b)
Naming the feelings, therefore, becomes more and more challenging as we grow up. It’s not so clear-cut to be able to isolate and identify our emotions at any given circumstance. We have to do a lot of soul-searching in order to realize what really is going on inside of us. We totally have to bring the inside all the way out.
And that, might be hard for someone like me. Someone who lives in a constant state of rushing and hurrying has a hard time stopping to ponder.
But just like the traffic lights on the streets of my small-town attempt to keep the mid-December traffic flowing, I need to install and activate traffic lights in my heart, so I can too keep the flow balanced. How do I do that? Let’s explore that idea in the next post.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4: 23
“A steady, continuous stream of something.” That’s basically what my friends Merriam and Webster say is the meaning of “to flow.” In the current context of being just a few days before the end of the semester, and less than 2 weeks before Christmas, when I think of “flowing,” I picture traffic. At this time of the year, traffic is everywhere, even in an otherwise sleepy college town like this one where I live. When traffic moves in a nice, constant and continuous stream, life is not too bad. Even though the streets are busier than usual, it all “flows” so nobody is too frustrated.
As soon as there is an interruption to the smooth flow of traffic, everything changes. Young people start revving their car engines. Not so young people’s faces distort in the rear-view mirrors. Some at the end of their ropes even blow their horns (this is kind of funny because if we were in Panama, the sound of loud horns is just the everyday background soundtrack…but around here, some people have never even heard the sound of their own car’s horn).
My point is, once traffic flow is interrupted by whatever, the flow of life is disrupted. All becomes out of balance. You see some cars on the other lane moving and think, “why are THEY moving and we’re still stuck in here?” You move two inches only to come to another halt and wonder what &%$#@(I try to bite my tongue here, but sometimes…yikes) is happening up there? You start looking at the clock. You fiddle through the car radio as if looking for someone to tell you what’s going on? You hyperventilate. You start reviewing all the things you are going to be late for. Your hands start sweating. Your jaw starts tightening. Your knuckles become white as you grip the steering wheel. (I know I’m saying “you,” but what I really mean is “me”)
It’s simple, when the flow is disrupted, life gets out of whack.
I think that’s what author Holley Gerth is telling us in chapter 4 of her book You’re Going to Be Okay. Guarding our hearts means, in a way, allowing the Holy Spirit to be Lord over our lives in a way that the flow is balanced, constant and uninterrupted. The first aspect of maintaining such a flow is to pay attention to our emotions.
Praying that the Holy Spirit gives us mastery over our emotions is the first step to gaining self-control. Rather than letting our emotions control us as they run wildly, stumping over everything they run into, we pray that the Holy Spirit gives us discernment and awareness, so we can react to circumstances with wisdom and kindness.
Please Lord, help us to guard our hearts in a way that the flow of our emotions is balanced and loving so we can express our feelings in a way that is not damaging to others or ourselves.
The next posts will deal with the advice author Holley Gerth gives us in order to take the necessary steps from our end to begin to restore the healthy flow in our hearts.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
A while ago, Dylan was joking about the two of us having way too many emotions. I don’t know where he heard that expression, but I agreed with him. He and I are very similar that way. We might not show them in public often, but we are a bundle of nerves and feelings…actually, everyone is!
I mean, really! The reality is that everyone feels. The thing is that we all have different ways to express what and how we feel. A person without feelings is, simply, not a person!
I remember at the beginning of our relationship, I used to call Dan a robot. He was just SO cool and collected all the time. I have to admit that often I did things just to see if he’d lose it a bit. Later I realized that he has just as many feelings as me. But he just doesn’t wear them on his sleeve the way I do.
God designed us to have feelings and emotions. They are God-given qualities. They remind us that we are alive. They are precisely what make us human. And that is exactly what God wants us to be: alive humans!
Had He wanted a bunch of heartless, reason-only, analytical beings, He would have created Himself a bunch of C-3POs…though even he shows emotions, that’s why we love him, right?
And that’s exactly it! How would we ever love if we couldn’t feel anything.
God is Love! Of course, He couldn’t create us any differently. In all our imperfection, God granted us a heart big enough to love. What a gift!
Too many emotions? Well, yes! I’m human! What do you expect? Out of control at times? Yep! I’m not fully grown yet! Unable to keep the heart guarded? Right again! That’s why I need a Savior!
I’ll try to get back to what the book says regarding how to guard our hearts tomorrow, for today, I just wanted to celebrate the fact that feelings and emotions are a true gift, and as such, I receive them and express my gratitude to the Almighty who granted them to me and to all of us.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Guarding the heart is like guarding a place that holds something of great value. Author Holley Gerth says, it’s like when a King sets up the defense system in his castle. There are guards, walls, motes, crocodiles in the motes, electrified fences, motion-sensing alarms, metal detectors, x-ray and sonogram machines at the gates, satellite-intercom systems, weaponized drones with cameras feeding video to the head of security 24/7, navy-seal/secret service officers wired for constant/instant communication…well, you get the drift…I’ve watched all the James Bond movies, so I know what I’m talking about!
If you think about it, all these defense mechanisms have three basic roles:
1. Keeping harmful things out
2. Letting good things in
3. Letting the king go out into the world to spread cheer
This is kind of what guarding the heart is like. According to the author of You’re Going to Be OK, guarding the hear is “an in-and-out flow we carefully watch.” (71) However, she says, we run the risk of sometimes, focusing way too much on only one of the three main roles, that we neglect the others, causing our heart-guarding efforts to become unbalanced.
When this happens, then, four other things develop:
1. We go on heart-lockdown: we close up. Nothing comes in or out of our hearts.
2. We open for all business: there is no protection. We let everything in.
3. Exit only: we allow some stuff out, like giving our time and resources, but we don’t let anyone or anything come in.
4. Entrance only: we get all we can get from others, but we don’t give anything.
This sounds extreme. The trick is not to see them as static categories. In my case, I’m not just one of them. I have experienced a combination of these situations at times. I’d say that in my case, I’m more of a person who tends to go into lockdown/exit only mode. For instance, often I feel insecure about my adequacy as a Mother, Wife, teacher, you name it. In those moments, I go into lockdown. I isolate myself. I project my own rejection of self onto others, and I don’t let anyone in or out. I shot down. Like a storefront in a ghost town. There are other times, and I see this happening quite a bit with my students, I give my time and dedication to them in the classroom; but I stay distant. I don’t want to get too close to them, because I don’t want to be involved in their personal dramas. I call it “protecting myself.” However, it seems more like a deliberate attempt to keep the relationship as a business transaction: impersonal.
I call going into these modes, “guarding” my heart. However, I’m learning that what I call “guarding” is actually a disruption of the flow.
A guarded heart shows the following characteristics:
1. When a heart is guarded, emotions are felt and expressed appropriately.
2. When a heart is guarded, relationships are based on give and take.
3. When a heart is guarded, Jesus is on the throne.
We will continue exploring what the author means by these three characteristics, so we can start recognizing what a truly guarded heart looks like. Let’s continue this tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll discover some useful stuff in here.