|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Say Hello to Steady Emotions
A few summers ago, my family and I found ourselves bunked up at my sister's house for several days during a flood that destroyed a good chunk of South Louisiana. On the third day of being cooped up with a toddler with no toys and a three-month-old with only a few diapers left, we started getting news that the waters were rising. So was my blood pressure. Being the intro-est introvert you will ever meet, I was going crazy not having my usual moments of the day to myself.
I don't remember what put the wheels in motion, but my husband said something, and I went ballistic. I could not be calmed down. And the more my husband and then my sister tried to calm me down, the more I insisted that I was being totally calm and rational.
I. Was. Not.
So Tyler and I hashed it out awkwardly in the driveway in front of some storm do-gooders who had decided to pick up trash about three feet from our heated conversation. Eventually this truth came out: my husband thought I was very up and down. One minute I was sharing some sage advice, telling women on Instagram how I find peace or joy, and the next minute I was flipping out. What I heard my husband say was that he thought I was a phony. Cue more tears.
The rest of that week (after the waters receded enough for us to get home without needing a lifeboat), I thought a lot about this conversation. I hated that I could be so Spirit filled one minute and so rage filled the next. Every moment God was at work in me felt incredibly real. But there was no question about it, those sweet moments were often all too short.
At the time, I happened (that's Southern Baptist for "God orchestrated") to be reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. As I learned just how important it is to care for our emotions as part of our spiritual health, it struck me for the first time how little attention I gave to my emotional health. Sure, I had Bible reading and prayer in my holy rotation of daily activities, but tending to my emotional health? What for?
Scazzero says, "We know we have found our balance when we are so deeply rooted in God that our activity is marked by the peaceful, joyful, rich quality of our contemplation." The rich quality of our contemplation? You are chuckling, right? Who has time for that?
What I've learned from a few decades of "lessons," we'll call them, is that we're more willing to work on problem areas when things get bad enough. Maybe right now you are feeling desperate and drained of every possible tear. Your voice is hoarse from yelling (I've been there), and your body is brittle (I've been there, too). If that's where you find yourself, I don't have to convince you that rich contemplation is worth it. You're all in. But if you don't think emotions affect your life that much right now, you might be tempted to skip this chapter, thinking you have bigger fish to fry. But no matter where you are on the emotional spectrum, this is a good place for all of us to start.
If we are going to tackle our inner Grumpy Mom to the floor, we have to start by first addressing the assumption that all moms are overly emotional. Swarming around us is the idea that women and, even more so, moms are just an utter mess of feelings. We're ticking time bombs, and our kids have to do dance moves around the activation switch. These thoughts are enough to make even a pretty stable momma feel on edge.
There's nothing wrong with emotions — in fact, the ability to feel is a gift from God. But the world would lead us to believe that instead of having control over our emotions, we are ruled by them. At times I have felt utterly unstable emotionally, and I think this cultural misconception is what planted the idea in the first place. Somehow I crossed over from feeling a little scattered and stressed to one tantrum (my girls', not mine) away from an all-out breakdown.
When we found out our second child was going to be a girl, one of my first reactions was to feel bad for my husband. Not because he'd miss out on all the father-son things, but because our house would be wall-to-wall tears or giggles, always cranked to an eleven in either direction. I wasn't sure he could handle the emotions of three females.
This breaks my heart a little. The assumption that girls can't process their emotions in a healthy way is all around us, and it's wreaking havoc on us and our daughters. But here's some hope for us: we can process emotions in a healthy way. We aren't limited to the world's labels, because our God is not limited by anything.
So embrace your heart, fragile as it may be, and let's talk about a better mindset when it comes to processing our emotions.
GET ME OFF THIS THING
Emotions were on my mind so much during my second pregnancy. Everywhere I turned, the topic seemed to come up — in webinars, in books, and in sermons. Then, three weeks before I gave birth to Vana, my sister got married, and less than twelve hours after I cried myself down the aisle as matron of honor, my cousin passed away unexpectedly and I bawled again, this time on my parents' porch. The range of emotions I experienced in the weeks prior to and after Vana's birth sent me on a roller coaster and all but consumed me. Pregnancy was the ultimate honesty filter. There was no possible way to suppress what I was feeling as I had attempted to do in the past. (I can say from experience that either extreme — stuffing the emotions or letting them fly all over the place — can be equally as dangerous.) It was during this time that I learned the driving power of emotions — and how clueless I was in dealing with them.
One of the biggest realizations that came to me from the sermons and books I read (okay, mostly the movie Inside Out) is that emotions are actually good indicators that we should take a deeper look inward. But we should manage them instead of letting them dictate our lives.
Does life sometimes feel like a roller coaster? Do you wake up wondering if it's going to be a good day or a bad day based on whether your baby misses his nap or your toddler has a bad day herself? It's exhausting, isn't it? Living this way is the definition of survival mode. We hold on for dear life and let our emotions buck us around like a wild stallion. If you have never had a season where your emotions called the shots in your life, I tip my hat to you, ma'am. For the rest of us, this is totally normal, and dare I say, everyday life.
If you're ready to hop off the stallion, would you take a moment to picture another reality with me? Before your feet hit the floor in the morning, you lie in bed, look up at the ceiling, and praise Jesus for a new day. You tell him that you are excited to see what he has planned and that you are choosing right now to obey his lead instead of the leading of your emotions. Your heart isn't racing as you walk toward the dark abyss of a day full of unknowns. You know exactly what's to come — not the actual circumstances, but who you will be in the midst of them. Sure, one of your kids may barge into your room screaming for breakfast, but you hold out your hand and notice something new. It's steady like a Marine. Although you still can't predict what your kids will do, your heart is no longer set to the temperature of your circumstances. It's set to God's truth: that he is with you always, that he loves you, that his plan is better than anything you could come up with on your own. These truths trump anything the world will throw your way today, and as a result, you're calm and at peace.
We don't have to be slaves to the version of motherhood we see in all the movies: the mom who has stress in her life (shocker!) and then unleashes a storm of emotions on her kids, her spouse, and anyone else within earshot. This depiction of motherhood isn't just a fictionalized Hollywood version either. We've seen it at Target, too — the mom who has stress in her life (in the form of a toddler) and starts yelling and slapping her kid and telling them to be quiet and stop hitting. We have bought into the lie that this is normal. Yes, tantrums in Target are normal. (And by this I mean that tantrums in Target are normal ... for kids.) But we can flip the script when it comes to the way we respond.
CRYING OVER SPILLED MILK
Have you ever been scared of your kids? Not scared for them, but scared that they'll dictate how your day will turn out? I've been there, and it's utterly exhausting. And isn't this part of the reason we get so frustrated with them sometimes — because they have singlehandedly chosen to destroy our day? We put undue pressure on our kids to keep us happy (or at least to behave well so we can pretend to be happy). But this expectation is misaligned. The truth is, if we are living by emotions that are based on circumstances, we will inevitably be disappointed.
If we didn't put so much pressure on our children to accomplish what they were never intended to, I think we'd enjoy them a lot more. We'd see that accidentally spilled glass of milk as a quick cleanup job rather than as something to snap a photo of, post on social media, and rant about how all of life with kids is messy. In that moment, we have a choice: we can take the situation in stride, or we can make the dangerous jump to the thought that life isn't what we hoped it would be. Cue depression. Then our kid says something that normally wouldn't be a big deal, but we're already spinning out of control. Cue anger. And then we see our kid's face and realize we messed up. Cue sadness and guilt. And finally, cue wanting to throw in the towel.
In these moments, we need to hold on to the truth of Romans 8:6: "The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (NASB). We will never find life or peace if our minds are consumed with every fleeting emotion that vies for space there.
Maybe you've already tried this whole setting your mind on the Spirit thing and it just didn't take. Elisabeth Elliot emphasizes why it's hard to capture thoughts: "The taking of captives is not a gentle business. They don't want to come." In other words, we have to expect a fight as we change our thought patterns. We need to show up dressed for battle, not with our yoga pants around our ankles.
Here are two specific ways we can be proactive about allowing the Lord to change our thoughts.
1. We need to make room to really contemplate.
Even when we attempt to bring our minds to truth, we often cut things short before truth takes root. When we start sensing that our emotions are taking over, we might throw up a surface prayer like "God, please help me! I'm so frustrated!" I can't tell you how many times I've done this, and when I got to "amen," I felt nothing. Now, this isn't a bad prayer. God hears our cries — even the ones tossed up in quick desperation. But we also need to set aside intentional time to give our brains space to think. For me, thinking is a lost art. I love to read, to consume, to produce. But as I've begun to take time to process what I'm learning, it has activated more change in me than simply reading all the materials I thought would bring transformation. I know this might sound impossible in your noisy home, but in some ways it requires less energy than many other things we try in an attempt to find freedom.
So the next time you find yourself hiding in the bathroom trying to regroup, remember that because of the power God has given you, you are capable of resisting the downward spiral. You don't have to sulk in a Grumpy Mom happy hour; you can acknowledge the emotion without letting it determine your response. This might mean taking a second to think about why something stirred up so much anger in you. In this way, our emotions can alert us to an issue instead of dictating our actions. When we do this, our emotions actually serve us instead of the other way around.
2. We need to acknowledge that deeply ingrained thought patterns will take time to change.
Habits are formed when we repeat something over and over again. We learn this principle when we want to develop a good habit, but it works in reverse, too. It will take some time to remove our negative thought patterns, since they were likely formed over a long period of time. So take heart — even if the progress is slow, it doesn't mean you aren't being transformed. It may just take longer to rewrite your thought patterns than you expected. When you fall back into old habits, don't buy into the lie that you'll never change. Remember that this is all part of the process.
Sure, we'll all get upset again at some point. But let's say goodbye to the hour-long (or daylong!) visits from Grumpy Mom. Let's choose a steadfast spirit that is overflowing with truth so that life's hiccups don't knock us off kilter. It's possible to have victory over our thoughts, but only if we set our minds on the one who never changes.
1. Recognize patterns. Are there certain places, times of day, or circumstances that tend to trip you up? Recognize them and suit up for them. I love this version of Psalm 27:3: "When besieged, I'm calm as a baby. When all hell breaks loose, I'm collected and cool" (MSG). Let's tuck this away and bring it to mind during the craziest parts of our days.
2. Create a list of grounding affirmations. Don't worry, there isn't anything woowoo about this. I'm just talking about starting the day with Scripture to lay a firm foundation. Write down a verse and put it on the bathroom mirror, or put it on your phone. You might even voice-record it so you can listen as you get dressed in the morning. Even if you don't have time for a deep dive into Scripture, fill your morning tank with a few solid truths that will set your feet on a steady path.
3. Excavate the emotions. Remember, emotions aren't bad; they are purposeful and beautiful. The idea is not to become a robot who doesn't feel things. So how do we experience emotions without letting them destroy our lives? The next time emotions well up that seem set on controlling you, ask yourself a few questions:
What is the emotion?
What does that emotion want you to do? If you let the emotion dictate your behavior, what would it have you do?
What is the truth you need to base your actions on?
The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
ROMANS 8:6, NASB
Father, you created emotions. Just like any other good thing you have designed, they can be harmful if I allow them to be my master. Please make me aware of how I let my emotions rule me, and give me a steady heart that is calibrated to you.
In Jesus' name, amen.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday"
Copyright © 2019 Valerie Woerner.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.