What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, January 28, 2016

God's Plans

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s only been a couple of weeks since I decided having emotions won’t hurt me. It seems like a long time ago that I had that realization. And today, I’m having trouble believing it. My therapist said there would be days like this. I was hoping she would be wrong.
Mostly what I’m feeling today is anxiety. This is caused, I believe, by a number of unknowns in my life. All I can do is wait to see what happens in several of these situations. That is an uncomfortable place to be. It means going about my day as best I can putting aside the worries and wonderings of things that won’t happen until a later date. I would much rather know and try to do something about things, but there’s just nothing I can do today to deal with the situations causing me anxiety.
One of the anxieties has to do with doing things outside my comfort zone. However, God addressed that issue in my Quiet Time this morning. I read in Joy Breaks (the book I’ve been using as a jumping off point for my meditation and exploration of the Word), “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” [Proverbs 16:9] So, what this says to me is that even if I could make plans, God ultimately causes things to go the way He wants them to.
A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Man plans, God laughs.” This verse reminds me of that. I don’t think God is laughing at us to make fun of our plans, but He’s probably thinking, “If they only knew the glorious plans I have for them.” His plans are so much better than what I could plan. My small plans could very easily be making God laugh as a parent laughs at the plans of a two year old. They might be grand plans, but the parent has a bigger picture in mind.
So today, I’m trusting that God’s plans, the course He has set for me, is so much grander than all my worries. Trusting God doesn’t necessarily take the fears of the unknowns away from me, but it does remind me that He is in control and that His plans are for my greatest good. My plans are very limited in scope whereas His plans are all encompassing. His plans takes care of every aspect of my life.
So for this moment (if not for the whole day), I can rest secure in His care and provision for every aspect of my life. Whew. The anxiety is a little less for the time being.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Today I realized that it’s been over three months since I wrote anything in my journal. This came up because my devotion for today was about how Luci Swindoll wrote in her journal everyday, and why and how she did it. It made me think of the reasons I journaled in the past and I was reminded of how important journaling is.
To start with, Luci quoted Deuteronomy 5:15, which says, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” Her point was that a journal is a place to keep the memories of the ways God has worked in our lives. There are many places in the Old Testament (and some in the New Testament) that record, in writing, the acts of God on behalf of His people. A journal can be my record of God’s acts in my life.
So to restart my journaling, I wrote about the sadness I’ve been feeling for the last few days. I can’t identify one big thing that has happened in my life that has caused the sadness. In fact, there are things, some small and some a little larger, that have combined together to create a sense of sadness in me. And there are probably some things I haven’t yet identified that are adding to the sadness. And maybe it’s none of these things and I just have to accept the feeling, acknowledge it, and work on comforting myself.
My therapist suggested I try to draw the sense of sadness. As I sat with my journal in front of me, contemplating what the sadness looked like, the image that came to mind is the same as mixing up a bowl of cookie dough. It is not a static, still life that I can draw. It’s moving and swirling together to create something altogether new. It may start with individual elements (sugars, shortening, eggs, vanilla, flour), but it blends together to create something that has all the elements in it, but is something completely different than what it started as. Then we add the chocolate chips, the good part. And I realized my sadness is like that, too. As the mixture is blending, new thoughts and memories come to mind that bring up some happier thoughts. They stick up here and there in the swirling mass and poke out at different angles. There may be a lot of them or just a few, but they add to the feelings of loss and sadness as only they can.
I wrote all that down in my journal in words. The swirling and feelings didn’t go away but they feel more manageable now. I’ve laid them before God and I can wait to see how God works to bring me growth as I experience these feelings and let them exist separately and blended together.
And, I’m reminded of why journaling is a good thing.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Feeling My Feelings

Last week I wrote about having Scriptural permission to feel my feelings. This week I had a realization that it really is okay to feel my feelings. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding my feelings by numbing out in one way or another, refusing to acknowledge the feelings that came up in my life. It’s something that started in my childhood when there were consequences for feeling my feelings, or at least expressing them. I discovered the best way to not express my feelings was to just not feel them. So I learned to escape them.
However, not feeling our feelings is not really an option. Trying to avoid the feelings is a battle and creates an inner struggle with oneself. In my case, it became a struggle between drinking and not drinking. It also became a struggle in my personality. Parts of me were feeling whether I acknowledged it or not. Throughout my recovery, I’ve had thoughts that allowing myself to feel might be easier than avoiding the emotions. However, those glimpses were short-lived and I usually was more afraid of the perceived possible consequences that of the struggles within.
As part of my therapy homework, I was writing down the various emotions I started to feel in a notebook. After the brief acknowledgement of the feeling, only long enough to write it down, I’d close the notebook and proceed with not feeling and going about my day. One day as I was doing that, I realized that I kept writing down the same emotions over and over with slight variations: Fear, anxious, frustration, sad, bored, discouraged. There were occasionally different feelings written down: Happy, proud, satisfied/content. I had allowed myself to feel these things and nothing bad had happened. There were no horrific or painful consequences. And, I had withstood them, albeit in small doses, and not fallen completely apart or died.
That discovery has given me courage to face my feelings and possibly learn to deal with them in more healthy ways (denying, ignoring, or suppressing them is not healthy). This discovery doesn’t take away my first response to the feelings. I still get afraid and don’t like to sit with the feelings very long. It’s a habit to not have anything to do with my feelings, so that’s where my thoughts go first. Yet, as I allow myself to experience the feelings more, I may learn to feel more things, including positive things. I may even find joy.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Permission to Feel

In my Quiet Times, I’m reading a devotional book as a jumping off place. It’s called Joy Breaks: 90 Devotions to Celebrate, Simplify, and Ad Laughter to Your Life. The various devotions are written by one of four women: Patsy Clairmont, Barbara Johnson, Marilyn Meberg, or Luci Swindoll. On Monday I read “Don’t Grin and Bear It” by Barbara Johnson.
Basically it said that there is a place for sorrow and crying in our lives. Actually, it said that humans are the only animals created that can cry. “Scientific research indicates that tears – real, wet, human tears – may be the body’s mechanism for flushing away harmful chemicals produced during stress.” (p. 16) So that tells me that God has a purpose for crying and tears, and that we should not refrain from experiencing them.
However, crying means that we feel something, something pretty intense. And feeling scares me. I’ve done many things throughout my life to avoid feeling (or at least feeling intensely). My addiction to alcohol started because of feelings and frustrations I experienced as a young person. Self-harming behaviors developed as a way to not feel the emotions I was feeling. Keeping people at arm’s length kept me from feeling emotions. Getting caught up in a good book often helped me avoid feeling the real things in my life. There are probably other ways I’ve learned to avoid my feelings, but they come so naturally to me, that I can’t even identify them.
I’m not sure why my feelings are so frightening, but after reading the devotion I realize I’m not experiencing all that God wants me to experience because I’m unwilling to allow myself the emotions that may cause tears. The devotion cited Psalm 126:5-6: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” God understood our humanity (after all He created us) and expects there to be tears whether due to sorrow or joy. I’m missing out on being fully human by not allowing myself to feel intense sorrow or intense joy.
The devotion also said, “Sometimes allowing yourself to cry is the scariest thing you’ll ever do. And the bravest. It takes a lot of courage to face the facts, stare loss in the face, bare your heart, and let it bleed. But it is the only way to cleanse your wounds and prepare them for healing. God will take care of the rest.” (p. 17) So maybe I’m not alone in having trouble accepting my feelings and allowing myself to feel them. It may be scary for everyone. I need to learn to deal with my feelings in productive ways, first by identifying them and letting myself feel them.