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.
My school does a huge Art Day in the Spring and it’s amazing! This year we had painters, a potter, a whole cafeteria of activities for the kids, even a bagpiper and Vincent Van Gogh showed up! What was really amazing though was how one drawing could remind me of a very important lesson I learned in The Journey Training.
One of the artists was a caricaturist. If you’ve never seen a caricature, it’s a cartoon-like drawing that magnifies the most obvious features of the person or subject. I had one done years ago and was excited to have another. The teacher was the subject and the students got to watch. Despite my eagerness, I knew what the artist would pick up on because I remembered it being distinct from my last one. I knew when he finished, I would see a very large forehead and striking jaw. I’m self-conscious about this, but wanted to participate anyway. To involve my kids more, I had them tell the artist what I liked. One said coffee and another said football.
Then came the unveiling. Sure enough, he did a great job! I had a coffee cup and yes – a large forehead and jaw.
As I said, I predicted it, so it was an easier pill to swallow. I struggle with self-image issues, but my experiences with The Journey Training continue to teach me I don’t have to live there. We all have parts of us that are striking. It may be a jaw or large thighs. It may be a tall height or type of hair. It may be a bad temper or the tendency to hide behind happiness.
Those characteristics don’t define us. They just reveal aspects of ourselves that we are giving off. People may notice my chin, but that doesn’t make me ugly. People may see that I’m trying to be happy even when things aren’t good. It’s not bad, it’s just an experience.
The Journey Training gave me the freedom to receive and embrace feedback. It’s like a caricature, but this one can draw you into a better life!
It was 5 days before Christmas. I decided to brave TJ Maxx HomeGoods for the last of my shopping. Two hours later, I’m in the rather long checkout line. Ten registers, one queue line, an aisle of impulse buys behind that, and the line was beginning to pour over into another new line. A few spots behind me, there was a man holding a rather large box. The ladies directly behind me offered to get him a buggy. What’s a buggy you ask? It’s that thing you push that many people call a cart. The man declined the buggy and continued to wait and hold his box. A few minutes later I looked back and he was gone. I don’t know his story or why he left, but I know that before I went through The Journey Training, I also often held onto too much stuff when I should’ve gotten a buggy.
I’ve always had a hard time accepting help. Just because I had a prenatal stroke which weakened my left side and also made me legally blind, I didn’t want to be perceived as weak. I was bullied enough as a child that I told myself stories that everyone thought I was weak. In my mind, I should carry the same bulky and heavy boxes anyone else does and be trusted with the same amount of fragile material…despite all of my falls. I had to accept that other people have to drive me, but I’m perfectly capable of carrying a week’s worth of groceries in and out of the car by myself.
When I attended my first Journey Training class, I began to see areas of my life that were weighing me down. The Threshold weekend showed me how much I needed to put in a buggy. The next weekend, Crossroads, helped me grab a buggy and actually use it. I felt lighter than ever before! The third class, Launch, showed me how important the buggy is to fulfilling my life’s purpose.
If you’re weighed down, maybe The Journey Training is your buggy! The next class is just around the corner! Grab a buggy and lighten your load!
“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
Today I was at a breakfast potluck and there were doughnuts and they looked amazing. Because of a food allergy, I wasn’t able to eat one but my friend was so excited to get hers. She talked about it a lot. Granted she’s been on allergy elimination diets for a while and she hadn’t had a doughnut in months but she was making it a big deal. Taking pictures of the doughnut, sending said pictures to other people, taking pictures of the leftover sprinkles, mmm-ing and ahh-ing. Basically, she was making me jealous.
So what do I do? I go home and pull a doughnut that is safe for my food allergies out of the freezer. But no, that’s not good enough. I make homemade frosting to put on it. Still not good enough. I didn’t have sprinkles, so I put decorator sugar on top. And now, I am feeling like I overdid it.
How often does this play out in our lives? We see something someone else has and we start to compare. We can’t just keep it simple, we have to outdo the other people in our lives. The “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. If our neighbor gets a 60-inch television, we want 70-inch television. Bigger, better, newer!
What does all that get us? NOTHING!
During the recent Christmas season, it’s so easy to get caught up in the giving and getting of gifts that we forget to appreciate all the blessings we already have. The busyness of the holiday can often detract from the true reasons for the season. Between shopping, wrapping, sending, cooking, decorating, and visiting, on top of the regular to do lists that are already so long, we don’t have a minute to pause and reflect on what we already have and the greatest gift of all.
So please remember that your doughnut does not have to be as spectacular as your friend’s. The sprinkles don’t have to be perfectly arranged, and the frosting can be lopsided. The King of Kings has already deemed it, and you, priceless.
If we are constantly reaching for more, we will never appreciate what we already have. The secret is wanting what you have, not getting what you want. The attitude of gratitude is the key to living a balanced life. Slow down, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think about the things you are grateful for.
Take some time in this new year to really think and do something different. Enroll now in The Journey Training. The first class for this year is just days away!
I have a very heavy story of redemption and the topics of my testimony can be shocking to some. I’ve spent quite a lot of time just getting comfortable telling my story without the fear of what people might think. I felt that once I reached that place, I had arrived at true vulnerability but God has recently been teaching me that honesty, although brave and courageous, is not the same as being vulnerable. Honesty does not equal vulnerability.
In regards to my story, honesty has been retelling the facts of who I once was. It means admitting to the life I lived and choosing to keep no part of me hidden in the dark. See, when I retell of my past experiences, I am able to tell the story with my guard up. My walls can be sky high. This is easy to do because it’s the past. I’ve already learned what reactions to expect. I’ve already decided how to justify my actions or explain how I’m different. I can properly defend myself. And more importantly, I’ve already come to a conclusion on what I’m going to allow my story to say about me. I can be proud of my transformation so any judgmental reaction rolls off easier.
The trouble with this type of honesty is there is relatively no risk involved. If I’m carrying guilt and shame, the perceived risk is much higher but, in all actuality, there isn’t much risk, at all. It becomes calculated risk. I know who to tell and when. I know what parts of my story to skim and what parts to go deep. I am, in this moment, in control of the outcome.
Vulnerability means being open and exposed to the possibility of emotional, mental and/or physical injury. True vulnerability is present tense. It’s right now. It’s raw and it’s real and the risk is so great because the scenario has never played out before. I don’t know what will happen and I am out in the open with an unknown in front of me. Vulnerability requires trust in God, to the degree that bearing yourself, in a moment of humanness, honest, pure, and humble; you’re able to accept whatever reaction might come your way.
Many people can tell their stories and be honest and vulnerable, at the same time. If I tell you how I used to be gay, I’m being honest. But if I tell you how, coming out of that lifestyle, has made me, currently, struggle with relating with people, and how I isolate myself out of fear of my heart ever connecting to the wrong people, I’m being vulnerable. Vulnerability is exemplified, more, however, in our actions than our words. I can tell you how I was bullied and beat up, rejected, most of my life, but the moment I allow someone new into my life, and I choose to trust again, I’m being vulnerable.
Do I choose to love again? Do I allow my kids to see my true heart? Do I give up my control and break down my walls? Have I really given over all of my life to God? Can I put my agenda aside for a greater picture? Am I humble? Do I show honor without reservation? Do I live a life of gratitude? Can I admit when I’m wrong? Can I accept the consequences?
We all have stories, many of which are inspirational, but nothing inspires me more than a heart that is willing to be seen, right where they are at, nothing to prove, and everything to lose. The true heart of vulnerability is humility, and a complete surrender and trust that the God of the universe is madly in love with you. He sees you, and knows you, and is proud to call you His, in every moment.
I challenge you, don’t just read people your story, show them your heart.