Emotions…Feelings…These have been flooding my psyche for the past few months. Sometimes I barely notice them. Then there are other times when they feel like they are overwhelming me. They cascade over my head like waves on an ocean beach. I have a love-hate relationship with my feelings. When they’re positive, I love them. When they’re negative, I don’t. I seem to believe that positive emotions are good and negative emotions are bad. But are they really? Do emotions really need a good/bad assignment to them?
The Never-Ending Change…
Very recently, the constant changes and uncertainty in the atmosphere of our world has gotten to me, and not in a good way. The simmering emotions of the ever-changing fabric of my life (I know, a bit melodramatic maybe), have been on the ‘back-burner’ but they still boil over every once in a while. Although these feelings are not forefront in my mind, they are still in the background, waiting for the heat to get turned up and a simmer to turn to a boil. On and on it goes. A good day, a good week, a bad day, a hard week, then back to center again for a while. Can anyone relate? As I scan the news articles and social media, it seems like it’s not just me, but the whole country and world who’s caught up in the chaos of the unknown future.
Along with the unknown in the world, each of us has our own unknowns in life too. I don’t know about you, but my life is still going. It didn’t stop when the stay-at-home orders started. Sure, it slowed down for a short time, but now it’s speeding up again. Specifically, I’m feeling the pressure in regards to adoption and schooling.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…
…or to quote from the movie Girls Just Want to Have Fun, “Decisions are the worst!” I am at a decision point. What do I do with my kids during this next school year? Do I send them back to school with all the unknowns, the constant changes, new guidelines and all the underlying stress of worry that being in proximity to potentially COVID-contagious people is causing? Or do I put them on a sabbatical from their school for this year in an effort to create at least some consistency? (It is not lost on me that I actually have the ability to entertain this choice since I am at home for both work and homelife. For this, I am thankful.)
Well, we decided to homeschool. It was a very BIG decision for us. We hadn’t ever really planned to homeschool the kids. We were glad to send them to school and have them learn in that way, but this past year has made us rethink things. At the same time, I guess tt wasn’t totally out of the question for us to consider homeschool either. I mean, so many of my friends and family homeschool that if I just started to lean a little towards it, I knew I’d be well supported and have a community of people for the kids and I to be around. So… we’re homeschooling, but then there’s the curriculum. Choosing what to use, how intense to be, trying to keep up with the school system, etc. There’s no one right answer! Each child’s schooling can be as unique as each child! This is both great and also overwhelming.
It reminds me of a previous blog post I wrote about making our adoption decision. I said, “the child(ren) out there for us will be as unique as our present circumstances that have led us to this decision at this time.” There’s this idea of the uniqueness of time. Never did I think that a global pandemic would force my hand to consider changing up my schooling options for my kids. Yet, it did. And yet, this same pandemic is not causing considerable changes to the other large decision in my life at this time – adopting a child.
We are still waiting and hoping to adopt. During this pandemic we have been contacted about two potential birth families to be matched with. One in the past and one in the present. With each new expectant mother/parent story, we have decisions to make. We have to weigh what we feel God is calling us to do with our family for the future as well as listen in case He’s asking us to make a change. Currently, we’re working through an adoption decision. I can’t go into all the details at this time, but suffice it to say that it’s a big decision! What we say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to impacts our entire future! They aren’t quite life or death decisions, but they are decisions with weight on them – they are weighty decisions. Please, tell me that some of you have ALSO had your own share of these weighty decisions moments. Sigh…
So, I’m in the middle of some weighty and stressful decisions. They will all work out just fine in the end, but the in-between details can feel overwhelming at time. They can feel almost crushing, like I don’t have what I need to adequately make these decisions! Then the anxiety and worry sets in and you can imagine how the day goes – not so great.
But back to my earlier question, do the negative emotions need to be labeled as bad? In my mind, I know the counselor-correct answer is, ‘No, emotions and feelings are neither good nor bad. They are just what they are. They are almost akin to fact. They are feelings, nothing more, nothing less.’ But that’s hard to keep in mind in the moment of negative feelings. So, I began to journal. I journaled how I was feeling, why I was feeling what I was feeling and realizing that I just plain don’t like the way the negative emotions make me feel.
My negative emotions make me feel weak – like a weak person, both mentally and physically. I know this is Satan lying to me, but the first step is recognizing that lie. Then in the swirl of the negative, comes a gentle stillness. I remember the Scripture, ‘For when I am weak, then He is strong.’ I think about how that can be applied to me at this very moment. How is God strong when I’m weak in this way? How is He showing up and lifting me up when I can’t do it on my own? And that’s it. It’s that simple. God is strong because he’s lifting me up, above the crashing waves. Or at other times, He comes in and stills the waves that crash until my inner world looks more like a serene, still lake. God’s strength helps me see another side to negative emotions. He encourages me that I don’t have to believe the same old lie that there’s nothing good to negative emotions.
Do you know what He told me recently? What He helped me to see about my emotions? Even in the midst of the snotty crying, or the heaviness in the pit of my stomach… God created feelings. He’s not afraid of my feelings. He’s not out of control. He loves my feelings. He loves my vulnerability. He loves my emotions.
You see, I am learning that my emotions can act as a catalyst in my life. They are a catalyst to enter into a bit more self-care when I haven’t been doing that lately. They are a catalyst to help me order my priorities and focus on what really matters for that day. They are a catalyst to keep me in the present, but still dreaming of my future. They are a catalyst to spend more time with Jesus so He can speak to me and show me new things, and old things. They are a catalyst to send me into the arms of my Father-God so He can lavish His love and comfort on me. They are a catalyst for me to listen to Holy Spirit for how God is showing His strength in the midst of my weakness.
Without this catalyst to move me towards the next thing, I can get stuck in the muck. I can start to live in the depression of weakness and the lies that come with it. I can start to build-up around me the things that seem like comfort, but really just act like a fence to hem me in. The catalyst of emotions on the other hand, moves me. It moves me out of the muck and onto dry ground. It builds up the strength in me and the truth that comes with it. It tears down my self-made walls of protection and instead shows me the steady and safe path of freedom in Christ! If I allow it. If I allow myself to go a bit deeper into the shadows of negative emotions or even a bit higher into the clouds of the positive feelings, I will learn new things with God. I will be moved and I will carry on yet again. I will have direction and peace.
So, even though I still don’t think that I’ll like the feelings of the negative emotions and I will much prefer the positive ones, I won’t shy away. I’ll press in just a little more so that I can learn more of what God has for me. And when the skies clear, I can work on my weighty decisions again and instead of experiencing great stress, I hope and expect that I will experience anticipation and clarity.