Freedom Within Fences

First of all, I just have to shout…

IT’S SNOWING!!!!!!!!!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QATqOjEC0vM?rel=0]

AH!!!! My little Californian heart is flitting around on the flurry, tasting the first snow of… Fall? Mesmerized by its descent… transfixed on the giggles of kids and their parents alike.

Perhaps many months of snow from now we will be complaining, not giggling, trudging, not skipping. But in this moment… our smiles are big, the beauty of God’s creations is still fresh and new, and we find comfort in hot chocolate and blankets pulled from their summer slumber.

Perhaps this kind of presence to the occasion is also what dad has taught me. To breathe in the moment and celebrate it’s goodness. To quiet the voices of past and future and relish in the now.

Which takes a great deal of self-control. The ability to say “no” to our desires or temptations… and “yes” to what is good for us and for all… even when it is in conflict with what we want.

To hold our tongue when it doesn’t build up or offer a solution.

To turn down the volume of our own attention-seeking inner voice so we can truly listen to the heart of another.

To build a fence, so to speak, around our actions, words, and thoughts. To put a filter on our hearts, minds, and souls. A thermostat to set the degree of our interactions.

Free-for-all living does not equate freedom.

What a lie our culture has fed us… that saying everything you think, doing everything you want, and treating others the way one believes they “deserve” somehow equals abundant and complete living. True freedom from our self-made pedestal.

The kind of freedom that leads to a life of putting out fires, burned bridges, and deep friendship missed to self-righteousness.

Some of us even call that “love.” Saying what we think, if it’s true, regardless of timing, how it helps or doesn’t help, whether it’s condemning or instructive… is love.

My dad has taught me differently.

That true love… shows restraint. It speaks truth in love… in true love… purely based on concern for the wellbeing of the other and not on the pride it gives us to be “right” or to have a special knowledge.

It is self-controlled.

It doesn’t just speak because it can… but because the world will be better for it.

It doesn’t just do because it is able… but because it truly is right and good… and doesn’t rob another of the opportunity.

It doesn’t hand out its own self-made justice… but longs solely for the eternal joys of each person and lives by such longing.

I have learned this the hard way. I did not take the advice of my dad on this one… not at first.

But seeing the pain I’ve caused others in my rash decisions to speak and do… have converted me to a life of careful restraint and thoughtful action.

I’ve used words in the name of “love” as daggers in the already wounded.

I’ve filled every “need” and thus prevented other gifted and talented from being used.

I’ve responded in full emotion… trusting the fickle feeling rather than ancient words of wisdom…

How freeing it is to know that you are not owned by your desires!

To live so carelessly as to say, think, and do on every impulse… reflects a life unbridled. A person on a crash-collision course with no driver in the car. A boat tossed to-and-fro on an angry sea. That does not sounds like freedom to me… but instead of devastation, calamity, and a great need for other things to be in control of.

Like spouses. Children. Employees. Animals.

Instead, when I choose to live with intentional restraint… I am truly free. Free to love others as they deserve. Free to trust. To give. To be.

Because I know that my choices are my own… and I am not a slave to my feelings.

  • A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Proverbs 17:27

  • A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Proverbs 29:11

  • Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. . . If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 1:19-20, 26-27

To learn more about 31 Days in 2012 or view other 31 Dayers blogs, click here.

I’m spending 31 days writing about my confessions and the lessons {Dad} has taught me. This is day 27 of 31 Days in 2012.

Life from a Thinker’s Perspective

Part 3 of “Feelings from a Thinker’s Perspective”
Read Part 1 HERE
Read Part 2 HERE

When I started out on this three part journey I had no idea what Part 3 would entail. I just knew that all good blogs have one (lol ☺). Not that this alone makes a good blog…

But the other night it hit me like a brick. I knew what I’d be writing.

Life from a Thinker’s perspective.

Last week my oldest had a stomach bug. My youngest got Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. My 3 year-old began to complain of a stomachache. My world of perfect health was being rocked…. in the same way that my one year-old loves to rock babies in their carseats… with really good intentions, love, and a LOT of turbulence.

Even though their illnesses were really small compared to the possibilities of disease out there, it was enough to shock me back to my senses. I could have let the feelings overwhelm me and become an over-protective, over-antibacterializing, over-everything kind of person. Instead, I sat back and reflected on these feelings and found the cause.

I take my family’s health for granted.

Not every day.

But on many.

How easily I assume that we will all stay well and be long-living if A. B. and C. are in place. We eat healthily. Drink healthily. Live healthily. We’ve got it covered, right? But even this is not truly in our control. I’ve known super active and healthy people to die on the spot of aneurisms. Or heart attacks. Okay, it’s not the norm, but it has happened.

And it could happen to me. I could be looking my lively child in the face when the phone rings. Brain Tumor. Cancer. Car accident. NameYourDisease. NameYourAccident.

I know that this has happened to some of you. I’m sure you rarely take life for granted. (It’s happened to me too, but not with a spouse or child or my own parent).

Again, I could have let this feeling and realization leave me feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, and forever terrified of the ringing phone, knock on the door, walking outside of my house.

Instead I chose to consider what can be done.

I can choose to live presently in every single moment that I am given with my kids. With my loved ones. How easily I forget this and begin to resent my family for being… my family! Because I just swept that or I’m trying to get the laundry done or could I please just pay this bill or write this book or… or… or…

And then that moment comes. And they are gone. And I have all the time in the world to do those things. Anyone can clean my house or do my laundry. But only I can be their mother. Be his wife.

The weight of days wasted feels so heavy. The hope of days yet to come feels so light and free.

That next morning I burned my to-do list. My two toddlers and I made ice cream in baggies, practiced fishing in the swimming pool, played in the water-park in our yard, looked for bugs…. Lived.

Together.

Presently.

No resentment.

Just the loving eyes of my kids, while I have them, a day lived.

My husband and older two kids came home. The floors were un-swept. The laundry was still sitting in the basket. I was putting the dishes away as I cooked dinner.

“Whoops, you caught me trying to make it look like I’ve kept the house up all day!” I laughed as he walked in. Then I told him what I had done.

And you know what? He didn’t care about all the stuff left to do. He simply entered the moment with us. Set down his work stuff. Grabbed our kids. And burned his to-do list too.

Living presently.

Why waste it worrying? Fretting? Trying to change the things I can’t?

Instead I choose to live NOW. My house will get clean (during nap times and bed times). But more importantly, my kids will know I love them. And we will all enjoy each other to the fullest while it’s ours to enjoy.

What will you choose? What does it look like for you to choose now?


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Feelings from a Thinker’s Perspective: Part 1

“Feelings are just feelings.” I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Feelings are just feelings.

Many agree with that statement. I, however, do not. Maybe it’s because I’m a Thinker 🙂 A Deep Thinker, even, according to the RightPath4 Assessment. I’m also a Thinker according to the Keirsey Temperament Assessment. Of course, I could have told them that.

Or maybe I disagree because I’m a Behavior Analyst at heart. Or maybe that’s why I’m a Behavior Analyst at heart.

See? Too much thinking.

Are feelings just feelings? It’s very cliche. Right? We’ve all heard it. We just want our feelings to be validated, even if they don’t make sense (hey, me too!).

I believe, though, that all feelings have a cause. Cause and effect. Something happens and a feeling follows. We may not undersand the feeling, be able to control the feeling, or even recognize where the feeling came from… but it came from somewhere.

Feelings can come from past experiences creating a sort of conditioned response to a trigger. For example, if every single time I went to Disneyland I smelled popcorn and that made me happy… then it would be natural for me to think of Disneyland and feel happy every time I smell popcorn. I’m trying to use a positive example with this scenario but many situations of this nature have had negative tolls as well… a smell can trigger a painful memory or poke at a deep wound. In fact, it’s often these negative emotions that seem to attach themselves to our experiences.

Feelings can also come from chemical reactions in our brain. Without enough of the happy hormones (Seratonin, Endorphins, and Dopamine) our brains can alter the function of brain behavior… leading a person to feelings of lethargy, sadness, emptiness, and so much more. Depending on the extent of the imbalance, a person can actually become unable to function in every day tasks, so overwhelmed by feelings. With medical attention, this imbalance can be treated and help restore a person to the more common of human experiences, without the additional brain-chemical challenge.

Feelings can also come from thoughts and actions. If I allow my thoughts to take their own course, I will wind up feeling something. This, fortunately, is something I can control. I can filter my thoughts. I can restrain them. I can guess where they are headed and stop them. I can even change my thoughts.

I don’t believe that feelings are just feelings. I believe that’s a fatalistic approach to handling ourselves. In that phrase I hear, “I don’t have to control my thoughts or actions… I just am what I feel- and feelings are just feelings and I can let them take their course; I’m powerless to them.” But I don’t think we are powerless to our feelings. Even a chemically imbalanced brain can receive some aid in restoring balance. I believe that our feelings need to be held accountable and tightly reigned.

For example (this is fictitious): I’m feeling really sad. I don’t understand why. I’m just down. I don’t see any perceivable cause for my feeling. Later, someone mentions my mom. That sadness pops up again. I realize that it’s the same time of year that she passed away, though it’s been a number of years now. I connect that earlier feeling of sadness with this new realization. Does it make the sadness go away? No, but now I have a source and can find some ways to help walk through my sadness with some direction. I can pull out an album and spend time remembering- grabbing hold of that sadness until it washes me clean. I can write her a letter in my journal. I can call up my sister and reminisce. I can act on my feeling, bringing it some resolution. I can channel it in a healthy way. It hasn’t just popped up for the sake of making me sad. It has a purpose- a place within me that needs some attention.

Feelings can be warning flags, like a sting on the bottom of our foot. A way of letting us know that something needs our attention. Because they are the effect, we must take a look at the cause. Knowing the cause can even help us change our feelings.

There. I said it. Feelings can be changed. I know that’s a very unconventional thought. It’s not new, though.

Feelings can be changed.

I can be angry at my husband for not doing the dishes. I can build it up in my mind too. I can decide that he’s lazy. That he must not really love me. That he’s selfish and rude. I can get become quite furious with this run-on of thoughts. But when I find out that the dishes weren’t done because he received a call from a friend who was in a crisis and rushed off to help our friend- my feeling changes. I’m not mad at his selfishness or rudeness. I don’t even question his love for me. Understanding the cause can change the effect. How often our feelings get the best of us over a misunderstood cause!

Or maybe he really was just being lazy and didn’t do them so he could watch a show. I can choose a number of ways to feel about this. Uh oh. I did it again. I said you can choose your feelings. Well, I think sometimes you can. I can choose to think he hates me because he picked a show over the dishes (which is the easiest route to take) and feel furious. Or I can consider that he works a full time job, is finishing his full-time Masters, and has four children… and just needs a break. So would I. I can feel some compassion and understanding. Very different feelings, same cause.

This, of course, is not a call to invalidate someone’s feelings. Feelings are very real and very strong. But YOU are stronger. There is a way through them that can make you a better person on the other side.

At least that’s what I think 🙂

Well, I’ve meandered quite awhile and think this has become the first of a three part series 🙂 The next part will focus on the value of pain and how we can use it to grow and better ourselves (instead of let it fester and wilt us). Stay tuned!  Oh, and please feel free to respond (nicely). 🙂 I have many thoughts, as you can see, but love to hear other opinions, consider them, and maybe even change my own accordingly! 🙂


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