For most of my life I can remember feeling like I had a black cloud following me around everywhere I would go. When I became an adult,and had some hard things happen in my life. I went from feeling like I had a black cloud following me to feeling like I was fighting to keep my head above water so I wouldn’t drown in a sea of emotions that were pulling me under like crashing waves. For most of my life, I had been taught to not allow my feelings to control me. I became an expert at putting on a good face to others by stuffing and denying how I truly felt. But inside I was fighting to catch my breath because I was drowning in a sea of anger, pain, shame, fear, and loneliness.
After my 20-year marriage came to an end, these feelings increased in their control over me and my life was filled with rage, depression, worthlessness, panic, and loneliness. Through The Journey Training I learned that this was the result of stuffing, denying, and not acknowledging what I was truly feeling. I had spent a lifetime thinking that this was how you “didn’t allow your emotions to control you”.
The truth was they were controlling me – in very negative ways. By not acknowledging the anger I felt at my husband for his part in our marriage ending, I would blow up in a fit of rage at my children over something as insignificant as a sock on the floor. I was overwhelmed by worthlessness because I had not even considered the amount of shame I felt for staying in a marriage for so long with someone who had made choices that deeply wounded me. Depression also ruled my life because of the pain I had endured during my childhood, with an alcoholic father who physically abused my mother and the emotional hurts my mother inflicted upon us as a result of her own pain. Finding myself a single mom of 4 children, I would now have many moments of panic. I was afraid of not being able to adequately provide for them (even though their father was an amazing financial support during this time) and also paranoid that I would never recover and have the opportunity to be loved and married again. Isolation has always been a part of my life as an introvert. It is very easy to hide away and not interact with others, especially when I was so insecure that I often felt alone in a room full of people. So, I would isolate all the more to avoid that feeling of loneliness.
At The Journey Training, I learned tools to help me process or acknowledge my feelings and I found gifts on the other side. I learned that by acknowledging what I am feeling anger about, I could find the motivation to do something about the situation instead of denying what I was feeling. For example, my adult son was not paying us for his phone and insurance as agreed upon and was not putting forth much effort to get a job. Instead of continually griping at him about it (as if that was doing any good), I found the motivation to set a boundary and inform him that he had until a set time to pay the two bills and if he did not, the data would be shut off on his phone and he would not be allowed to drive any car because he would be removed from the insurance policy. The result, he found a job within a week and our relationship was not damaged by my continuous nagging. It was a win – win!
When you touch a hot stove, it burns to let you know that something has happened to your body that needs your attention. Feelings are that same kind of alert – to let you know something has happened to your soul that needs your attention. If we ignored the physical pain we feel when we burn our hand, the pain would increase and some kind of nasty infection would probably develop. Consider what our souls must look like when we ignore the warning signs that our emotions are giving us!
If you would like to learn more about tools for processing and acknowledging your feelings, consider coming to the next class at The Journey Training. I am beyond thankful that I did 4 years ago! I no longer feel as if I am emotionally drowning nor do I have a black cloud following me! Do I ever have a bad day? Of course! But now I know what to do to identify the cause of whatever I am feeling and deal with it before it infects my soul.
I went to a get-together last night that made me start thinking. The question was asked, “What is worship to you?” As I sat and listened to the different responses, one part of everyone’s answer that was in common: a connection with God.
Many were there, and while we all had that common thread we all also had our own personal experiences and ways that we worship. I was so inspired by many that I almost felt my answer was inadequate. Instead of beating myself up I asked myself, “What can I do to make it more meaningful and to build my relationship with Christ to be even stronger?” That’s how I went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning for the strangest reason I was thinking about funny tech-support stories.
So, I got up and Googled it. I remembered the stories where they asked the customer, “Do you have the power on?” And when the power doesn’t come on the all-important question becomes, “Is it plugged in?” I started putting my questions to myself the night before into these tech-support scenarios. Is the power on? Better yet, am I plugged in?
Let me see; I do my daily devotions, although I allow life to get in my way more than I should. What about my prayer life? How often do I actually talk to God? I do, but not as often as I should. I usually pray after I read my daily devotional – for a good day, to keep my family safe, for new and present clients, for friends and other requests. I pray with my kids each night before bed & sometimes before we eat. When I see a prayer request on FB, I always say a little prayer right then because if I don’t I’ll probably forget. And, as most people, I pray when life gets tough. I guess in my own trouble-shooting, I guess my power is on.
But am I really plugged in? It doesn’t matter how many times you push the power button if it isn’t even plugged in. It’s more than going through the motions of going to church, daily devotions, and saying routine prayers. If I’m really plugged in I have a constant connection with God. I know He’s always there for me, but how often do I break that connection? A common occurrence for many. I often think, “I can do it myself” or “I’m too embarrassed or ashamed” (as if He doesn’t already know). Or “It’s too small to ask God for help” or even “this doesn’t really matter.”
Get out of your own way
I watched a comedian, who referred to a tech call where eventually the customer was asked if there was a child that lived in the house. There happened to be a 9 year old girl, and within a few minutes the problem was solved. The problem that the adult mind couldn’t get it done. Hmmmm, a child. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” Then it hit me. I need to come to Jesus as a child. I may have the power on by going to church, performing praise and worship, or participating in drama ministry – all of which are very important, but if I’m not plugged in and have that connection with Jesus, my relationship with Him doesn’t grow.
How am I approaching these things? Sometimes I wonder if Jesus possibly has a double meaning. Of course He is welcoming children, but maybe He was also telling us to come to Him like a child. We are like children – little two year olds that are full of independence and insist on trying it themselves – until we reach for our parents.
Remember the embarrassing secret story your parents actually already knew, and they hugged you to help you feel better. And remember that balloon you took to daddy to fix after it had popped? Dad just smiles because it’s such a precious little question, and then he gets you another balloon. Then he beams as you run off telling everyone how your daddy can fix anything! Just like our parents, God steps back and allows us to try to do it on our own. Then He welcomes us with open arms when we finally give it to Him. He embraces us in those embarrassing moments and lets us rest in the peace of knowing He is a forgiving God, full of grace for His children. In His arms there is no need to be ashamed. And, He smiles at us when we come to Him with our own “broken balloons.” Nothing is too small to take to Him. And how He must feel when we share with others that He can fix anything – even though it might not be how we envisioned He’d fix it.
Know His heart – and connect
Our relationship with Him isn’t meant to be complicated. It is as simple as a Daddy/child relationship. I see through my trouble shooting that the key to moving into a deeper relationship with Christ is to first make sure I’m plugged in and the power is on. Then I must go to my Heavenly Father as a little child to their daddy. I must stop breaking our connection. I must remember that I don’t have to do any of it by myself – I can rest peacefully in His arms no matter how embarrassed or ashamed I am, knowing He will forgive me and that He loves me. And that nothing is too small – or too big – for God to take care of.
The next time find yourself doubting, in fear, or in pain, first you should try some simple tech-support questions. I think you’ll find that He has every answer you need.
As a Boy Scout leader, one of the funnest games we would play is something called “Tell it like it isn’t.” I would get all the boys, put them in a circle, tell them a story. I would intentionally make up a funny or creative story (Surprising right?). The boys would tell each other the story, they could not repeat it or ask for explanation. all along the way, you could visibly see the story getting more and more odd based on the expressions of the boys who were hearing the story from their friend, almost like, “Did they really say that?” By the time it got to the end of the line, you generally would not get anything close to the same story. Too often we hear things or read emails and we are confused by it, but we don’t want to ask for clarification because of a number of reasons. What if what I think they said is true? What if they think I am stupid? What if they get mad I had them repeat it? Do any of these ring true?
If you are to communicate completely with other people, when you are not positive what you heard is true, it is important to ask them to clarify.
This actually happened today. A friend from out of town was staying with us overnight because she wanted to come early to volunteer for the Journey Training, so we had her sleep over. At dinner the next night, she made comment about Noell and I engaging in extracurricular activities at 6am this morning. (Technically termed Coitus) I asked “What are you talking about?” She told me, “I heard Noell say ‘O Arthur, O Arthur’ early this morning.”
I was horrified, “What?” There is no way that happened, and I would know. (Now if you have a smokin’ hot wife like Noell, you would know that I have no problem with that activity, I was just horrified that a guest would hear that)
I immediately got with Noell, and we started really thinking about this morning. Then I remembered what had happened last night. I remembered, that I had a meeting with Thrive15 at 6:30 this morning, and I was asked to deliver some Chicken Minis from Chick-fil-A. (I have heard them called our yummy Crack laced Breakfast Chicken) Well I thought I would go above, make it huge, and pick up some special donuts. Noell was supposed to order them for me. Sadly, they give us the frequent flyer discount at the donut store, and have a personal ring tone for my wife. I got up at 5:30, got ready, and at 6:05 I kissed my wife goodbye and asked her if she ordered the donuts. She snapped out of bed, and flung the covers off, and shouted “O ARTHUR, O ARTHUR,” (then quieter said) “I am so sorry.”
Meanwhile our friend all day carried around the thought of a very awkward moment of what she heard. All she heard was coming out of my room, Noell yelling, while being compassionate, “O Arthur,” with a sense of sorrow in her voice due to what she forgot.
Was either one wrong? Not necessarily. She connected some dots based on what she heard. This is actually something that our brain does naturally.
Can you think of a time that you heard the wrong thing, and then went the wrong direction with it?
I have done it sadly, multiple times.
Its quite natural, but it’s what you do with it afterwords that will make the difference.
The definition of Beginning is as follows: “The point in time or space at which something starts.” Many of us see our lives as a dash – that dash on our headstone between when we were born and when we die. Although our dash is our entire life, I believe our life is like an investment: past results do not guarantee future performance. If you look at the fine print in the top mutual funds they will all have contain disclaimer. Why? Because the future is unwritten, and that’s a good thing!
We all fall down. The stock market rises, and it corrects – and sometimes even crashes! It’s a part of life. Our crash doesn’t define us or determine our future. How we respond to our crash defines us and determines our future. If you’re in a crash or have experienced one in your past, and don’t like where you are now, the good news is you can begin again.
I doubt anyone reading this has never felt hopeless at some point; hopeless in your finances, marriage, faith, health, weight, or maybe your job. That’s one thing we all have in common. Hopelessness is a direct negative result of the feeling pain. The good thing about pain is that it can also have a positive result: healing and growth. Healing and growth happens when we look at our pain – our crash – and we learn from it. If past performance guaranteed future results, we’d be finished. Thank God we can begin again! So, the million-dollar question is: How do we begin again? Well, I can tell you how I did it – by losing my regrets.
One day on The Biggest Loser, I made a terrible choice. I played a game that resulted in me having to eat a 780 calorie cupcake – and that’s not good when you’re in a weight-loss competition! I made a mistake! I crashed. I immediately began beating myself up about my bad decision. Coach Mo noticed this, came up to me and gently said, “Someday you’re going to have to be okay with your choices.” Later that day, Jillian Michaels, my trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, had me on the treadmill and was killing me when she asked, “Danny, what’s wrong? Something’s bothering you.”
I got off the treadmill, sat down, and told her, “Jillian, I am so stupid. I played the game, ate the cupcake, and now I’m in trouble. I had to eat 780 calories more than the others and I may go home. I am so stupid!”
She replied, “So you’re going home, huh?”
Jillian said, “Well, that depends on you, not your stupid decision.” She went on to explain to me that holding on to regrets – the decisions that made you crash – will be your downfall, not the decisions themselves! You take your good decisions and run with them! You take your bad decisions and learn from them – use them to fuel your next step. That will determine your future.
That day, I grew – The pain and regret I felt began to cause hopelessness, but I worked through it and found healing & growth. I decided to begin again, right then and there! I laid down my regrets and worked harder that week than ever before – and I set a record on The Biggest Loser by losing the most weeks in a row of double digits, 7 weeks, beginning that very week! I dealt with my past, lost my regrets, and I was able to begin again.
What have you carrying from your past? Are there things you need to lay down and begin again? The Journey Training can help. I began losing my regrets in my training, and you can begin again with the next Journey Threshold class! Just make a new decision; a decision to lay down your regrets and begin again!
We tend to find exactly what we are looking for. If we expect negativity, we tend to find it. If we are searching for a great experience, we often find that as well. Let me give you an example from my own life.
A long time ago I was convinced that a guy at the Chick-fil-A Home Office had it in for me. He would often call me and ask difficult questions about my store that I didn’t have answers for and then took days to return phone calls when I left messages. It all left me frustrated and I began to feel like he was trying to get rid of me. Once there was a former operator who came by my store to see me. The guy at the home office found out about this visit and grilled me about it. My frustration level grew to a whole new level and I told him that if he didn’t think I was up to being an Operator, he should come get my keys (not a wise thing to say on my part but, “Whew!” I am still here).
Here is a different way that I could have chosen to view the situation:
A long time ago there was this guy who worked at the Chick-fil-A Home Office who really cared about and looked out for me. He often called to ask me questions that would force me to stretch and grow in my thinking. It wasn’t always pleasant, but if you don’t know what you don’t know, then you can’t become better, right? Sometimes when I would call him back to get his perspective on something, he would take time to think it over before calling me back. That way he could give me the best possible feedback. On one occasion I had a former operator come to visit me and talk to me about the business. I told the guy at the home office about the visit and he warned me that even though the visit seemed like nothing, it might turn out to have negative consequences and that I might want to shy away from encounters like that. At first it made me threatened as a leader, but I later came to understand the heart behind his advice and chose to appreciate where he was coming from. I grew to be thankful for my corporate office ally.
Do you see the difference in these two stories?
The difference is me. The difference is in the way I chose to look for, in the way I chose to see the situation.
We cannot control everything that happens to us. But we CAN chose how we react to it. We CAN choose how we want to frame it and what we decide that it all means. These choices can literally change everything about the outcome, but it will ALWAYS change something within us.
Here’s your homework for this week:
Make a conscious choice to look at every situation you encounter in the next week in a positive light. Then come back here and let us know how it went.