I’ve been to the ocean a whopping TWO times in my 31 years. The first time was on my honeymoon. Tim and I went to the Bahamas. It was glorious! The ocean was as blue as the sky and so calm that it looked like glass. Even out in the deep water, you could still see straight to the bottom. The second time was a trip to Gulf Shores for a Pastor’s Conference. The trip was wonderful but the ocean was very different than I remember it from my first visit. On this trip, the waves were choppy and rough and you could hardly stand up even for a few seconds before another wave crashed over you and knocked you down.
Lately, life has been somewhat like my two trips to the ocean…some days, the water is as blue as the sky and as calm as glass, but other days, the waves are so rough that it feels as if I can hardly stand up before being knocked down again. In other words, sometimes my days are easy…the pictures that you envision of adoption and homeschooling children are exactly right. We take walks, we read books on a quilt in the front yard under a shade tree, we visit the park and I stare at my children savoring every moment. But then there are other days….the days where hurt words fly, I swim in laundry, I feel completely and utterly helpless, and hopelessly inadequate to do what I have been called to do.
Yes, an ocean is what my life is….one day it’s beautiful and serene, the next fierce and relentless. Sometimes, there are seasons where the fierce, relentless days come and come some more and sometimes, there are seasons where the calm seems to be prevalent. For a while, it was really difficult to accept these extremes. While I have always had an interesting, full life, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced feelings from one end of the spectrum to the other in short periods of time, as I have in the past few months. It’s almost like a pendulum of emotions. I’d be lying if I said that I never wanted to quit, that I never wished that my life were simpler….oh how I would love to be that grounded and that faithful of a person. But sometimes, I let the rough, choppy days overpower me, and I look at Tim and say my famous line, “I am DONE with this day!”
Over the past few months that we have been dealing with this “ocean-lifestyle”, I am learning, though, that my emotions are the biggest liar that I face on a daily basis. On my “good days” my emotions tell me that I am Super Woman, that I have this all figured out, that I have mastered this parenting thing, this adoptive parenting thing…and well, let’s just face it, I’ve pretty much conquered life. But on my “bad days” my emotions convince me that I am worthless, incapable of doing the work God has set before me. The truth is that neither of those thoughts are right. In both cases, my emotions deceive me.
And I think that’s where we have to rest as Christians, in the realm of understanding that, while God gave us emotions for wonderful purposes (connecting with people, relationships, empathizing with others, etc), they can also be our worst deceivers. So I’ve been working to not operate on my emotions anymore. On those calm, serene days, I try (asking God’s help) not to believe that I am the most amazing person in the world. Nope, I’m simply a sinful person who God so graciously saved from darkness and called into His light. On the choppy, can’t-even-stand-up-for-a-few-seconds days, I have to remember that I’m also not incapable of doing God’s will. I am not worthless. I am not failing…On those days, I have to ask God to help me have wisdom to shut out the deceiving thoughts, to focus on His truth about me, and to keep my eyes focused on glorifying Him, which is my purpose on Earth.
Here are a few tips that I have found helpful when dealing with emotions:
- Separate what you know from what you feel. I know that God called me to homeschool, but sometimes I feel as though I’m failing. I have to focus on what I know and realize that the feeling will pass. I refuse to dwell on a feeling. Instead I choose to dwell on what I know.
- 2. Don’t make major decisions in emotional times. Yes, I understand that sometimes that means not making decisions for months. If a major decision doesn’t have to be made, then wait at least until you feel confident at #1, separating what you know from what you feel.
- Keep a blessings journal. It’s something that I wish that I could say I have been really good to do, but I seem to struggle finding time to write things down daily. But I do try to make it a mental practice. Every day, I try to make “mental pictures” of a few things I’m thankful for. One time, it was when we all went to a 3D movie. I looked down the row and saw all my kids and Tim wearing the goofy 3D glasses. It was too funny! And it warmed my heart. I chose to freeze that moment in time, and now when my emotions are deceiving me, I pull up that sweet memory and focus on the thankfulness that I had at that moment. It is amazing what that does to change your perspective!
- Know that it won’t last forever. Emotions change as quickly as the direction of the wind. Wait it out…it will improve. And if it doesn’t, there is no shame in asking for help.
I am so thankful that I have a Father who holds me up when I can’t stand up in the waves of life. I’m so thankful that He says to me, “I know the thoughts I have for you, not to harm you, but of a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11) I’m so thankful that when I keep my eyes on what he has for my life, I can rest assured that no matter how hard the days can be, this world is not my home, my reward is not here (although there are certainly some wonderful rewards here). My reward is seeing His face someday, and possibly hearing those sweet words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”