Tag Archives: process

Day 13: Listening to Anger (31 Days of Simple Truth)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsAnger can be a tricky emotion. None of us are immune to it, but some of us are more volatile than others. It’s an emotion I was afraid of for a long time because it’s not always easy to know what to do with it. The intensity can be . . . well, intense. Explosive. And often, justified.

Both of my children seem to have inherited my strong emotions (Lord, help me!), so dealing with anger that flares and escalates quickly is a regular occurrence. I was trying my best to help them, and I found myself saying, “There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. We all feel angry sometimes. But it’s what you do with your anger than can get you in trouble. You have to handle it the right way.” And then a teary-eyed child said, “Well, what’s the right way?”

Long pause. Blank stare.

I didn’t know. I’ve spent my life mostly burying it and trying to not explode. When it gets to be too much, I take a shower and have a good cry. I knew how heated my anger could be, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone with it or give the wrong impression or not be a good, gentle lady. So I adopted a cycle of “bottle, sob, berate myself for feeling things so strongly, repeat.” Not particularly helpful or healthy. And now I have two children who also feel AllTheFeels. They needed help, but I didn’t have any to give them.

So I’ve been learning, right alongside them, reading and studying and listening to people who seem to know what they’re talking about. We’re making progress, all 3 of us, although some days, the progress feels painfully slow.

Perhaps the most helpful thing for me so far has been learning to listen to what my anger is trying to tell me, to take those emotions and turn them into a question: what is it I am actually reacting to? What mattered so much to me that it provoked such an intense response?

I had the chance to practice this very recently. Something happened last week that made me angrier than I have been in a very long time. I was shaking with how upset and frustrated I was. And for once, I didn’t bury it or dismiss it or try to spiritualize my way out of it. I gave my husband a heads up that I was furious and it wasn’t his fault but I was going to need to unload (another wise lesson I’ve learned – give the poor man a heads up!). When we were finally able to sit across from each other and he said, “Ok, let’s have it,” it all poured out in torrents. I let myself feel it all and say it all. But as the layers of what happened and who said what and how I felt in the moment and what I wanted to do and what I actually did peeled off, suddenly something shifted in the conversation. I was able to see something clearly about my own heart and what I am passionated about that i had never really identified before.

In the days that have followed (much calmer), as I’ve continued to process and think, the clarity has continued to come. And what could have either been damaging or another thing buried is turning into something that is going to significantly impact my life and some choices ahead of us. It’s been kind of amazing.

i’m no anger expert, that’s for sure. I’m fumbling my way through it as I learn a better way. But one thing I am certain of, our anger is rarely isolated—just anger for no reason. There is something waiting to be revealed about our hearts if we will listen to it, rather than bottling it or letting it poison us.

P.S.: If you know any good secrets for helping children process their anger, I’m all ears!

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Family

Finding My Writing Process

Today I’m the next stop on a “blog tour” from Vanessa Johnson’s God’s Beautiful Mess.  Next week the blog tour will head to Caris Adel.

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What am I working on?

Well, I do have a novel and a few smaller projects on the drawing board right now.  My overarching focus though is on Story 201, an e-course with Elora Nicole, that really focuses on developing a manuscript and fine-tuning your creative process.  As I’m learning and working through the course, it’s serving as a springboard for developing my ideas, getting them out of my head and into actual words.

The novel I’m working on deals with the themes of human trafficking and illegal immigration.  It follows the story of a young Mexican teenager who ends up the victim of traffickers when her father decides to sneak his family into the U.S. and her unlikely but life-saving friendship with an American runaway also in captivity.  It is all at once heart-wrenching and hopeful.

Why do I write what I do?

Human trafficking is in many ways the “trendy” human rights issue of our day, but for millions it is the bitter reality of their every day.  I have worked on several awareness initiatives, including one that involved in-depth research on the issue specifically between the US and Mexico.  The stories were real and heartbreaking and desperate to be heard.  There are also many heroes laying their lives down every single day, and their stories need to be heard too.  I am weaving as many real life accounts into the novel as I can in hopes of giving voice to as many of the voiceless as I can.

With my other projects, I am really passionate about helping people move from the concept of intimacy with God into the reality of it.  We can know Him deeply, but it doesn’t always happen through the religious formulas we’ve been taught.  There’s more, so much more.  He really is concerned with practical, seemingly mundane details of our lives because His sacred mystery is so often revealed in those unlikely places.

How does your writing process work?

I almost want to laugh at this question.  Developing a writing process is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do.  I have two small children, a part-time job that demands a lot emotionally and spiritually, and my husband has started a new job that is requiring a complete overhaul of our schedule.  Which before the new job was total insanity, but we had learned to cope.  So a lot of my “process” right now is making sure I am getting words out on a consistent basis, at least 4-5 times a week.  I am also learning the importance of daily fueling my creativity – reading new fiction, immersing myself in music (my first love), doing lots of artsy and creative things with my kids, etc.  If I weave these things into my regular daily routine, then when I do finally have time to sit down and write, I don’t have to fight as much writer’s block; my creativity is already brimming and it’s just a matter of channeling it in the right direction.

And however silly it may sound, when I do get to sit and write, pouring a cup of tea or a glass of wine and lighting a candle really help me clear away the chaos and focus.

I want to say specifically to other moms struggling to find space for creativity and feeling like they’re losing themselves in the process of raising kids sometimes – I absolutely do not have all the answers and I struggle with this too, but something has been happening over the last three months that has surprised and delighted me.  The more I focus on developing and feeding my children’s creativity, the more it fuels my own.  I am NOT suggesting neglecting yourself or not feeding your own creative soul; it’s the complete opposite.  Watching them embrace and run with creativity actually inspires me to do what I need to fuel myself.  It’s been the most breathtaking cycle – I invite them to be creative, they blossom, which makes me want to be more creative, which empowers them to be more creative  and on and on.  A lot of days we create together – they paint, I write.  We art journal.  Instead of seeing them as an inhibition to my process, I am making them partners in my process.  It’s amazing.

How’s my work different from others of its genre?

Truthfully, I’m not sure what genre my novel falls into yet.  But I do think one thing that could set it apart is that I am not merely going to tell a story or bring awareness to an issue through the story; I am also weaving into the story the tools ordinary people like you and me can use to make a difference.

And spiritually, my relationship with God has been anything but ordinary or stereotypical.  I think I’ve had some very unique experience both within the church and outside it that help me understand and speak to a wide range of perspectives.

I mentioned having several ideas on the drawing board.  These include a YA coming of age type novel, some children’s books (both picture books and chapter books), Christian non-fiction and a fantasy-type story.  So I really don’t know what genre I belong in!

Next week – the blog tour stops at Caris Adel‘s space.  Caris sees the image of God in people where others might miss it.  It’s a beautiful gift she has.  Definitely be on the look out for what she has to say!

 

 

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Filed under Creativity, Writing

It’s Not Too Late

Photo by Jennifer Upton

Photo by Jennifer Upton

I want to be short, sweet and practical today.

This has been a significant week for me.  Among the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, one had to do with the number of times I wanted to workout each week and one was the number of times I wanted to blog each week.  This is the first week I’ve met both of those goals.

And maybe you say, “Sheesh!  It’s April, and you’re just now doing one week’s worth of what you said you would do?”  I’m tempted to join you.  But I won’t.

Because I’m learning that meaningful change rarely, if ever, comes in short, sudden bursts.  I’m learning that as soon as you resolve to change something or prioritize something, everything under the sun will conspire to stop you.  I’m learning that I have more grit and perseverance than I remember on an average day.

I have 5 areas I’m working on this year, and I keep those things ever before me.  At the beginning of each month, I set myself smaller steps to take towards the bigger goals.  At the end of each month, I evaluate where I am.  What did I do well?  Where did I miss the mark?  I adjust and decide the small steps for the next month.  I am also setting aside time at the end of each quarter to assess where I am.  I just did this for the first quarter of the year, and it was pleasantly surprising to see I am making more progress than I’d realized.  This is the first time in my life I’ve taken this kind of approach to change and goals, and I have to say, it is turning out to be quite effective.

I say all of this to encourage you – it’s not too late.  What are you wanting to accomplish?  What are you wanting to change?  There are 12 months in the year, and we’ve only completed 3.  There’s still plenty of time.  So you might have gotten off track or been frustrated by slower-than-hoped-for progress.  It’s ok.

Let’s keep going. One step at a time.

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Filed under Change, Writing

Your Necessary Voice

1521319_10153684799840004_215058137_nIn Story Sessions this week, we were asked what this quote evokes in us.  I’ve been  mulling it over and finding that, well, it makes me squirm a little.  Because I want it to be an elegant process – finding my voice and revealing my soul and reveling in my blessed weirdness.

Does anyone remember the 90s remake of Sabrina – the one with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond?  Do you remember how Sabrina goes off to Paris, all frumpy and awkward and unsure of herself?  And her mentor there tells her how she was the same when she arrived in Paris.  But then the mentor says: “I went for long walks, I drank coffee, I wrote in a journal and  I met myself in Paris.”

That’s how I picture the process of finding my voice. I just want to meet myself in Paris. (Insert dramatic sigh.)

If only. But back to reality.

It is ruthless – the process of writing and re-writing your words, peeling back the layers of trying to impress someone or sound like someone or not offend someone until nothing is left but your heart, laid bare.

It is relentless – the swirling of thoughts and ideas and stories in your bones, begging to be let out, while other voices are busy telling your mind no one is actually interested in what you have to say anyway.

It is inevitable – the fire shut up in your bones that has to come out one way or another, so you might as well write and write and write.

But where I am floored is in considering the process of finding my voice necessary for personal and collective survival.  I get it personally.  I mean, it’s fire shut up in my bones, so it’s a matter of letting it out or burning up slowly from the inside.

But to be necessary for collective survival?

Deep breath.

Accepting that someone, maybe several someones out there need, actually need my voice?  And perhaps a step further?  They need to see me engage the messy process of unleashing my blessed weirdness?

Exhale.

Yes.  It’s true.  It’s true for me and it’s true for you.  Your voice could sound like a million things besides writing, but whatever the sound, the world needs it.  Maybe not literally the entire world (maybe so).  But someone, most likely several someones out there, need what only we can uniquely say.  And when we engage the process, it infuses others with courage to shake off the dazed slumber and find what their hearts are saying too.

We are all that critical. Embrace it.

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Filed under Creativity, Hope, Writing

Giving Voice to the Pain

It came out of nowhere.

One moment I was happily working in the kitchen.  The next, I could hardly breathe, my heart doubled over with an old wound ripped wide open.

Not so long ago, I would have panicked, metaphorically rushed to stop the bleeding with a pathetic gauze of scolding myself and telling myself to just get over it already.  But not this time.  I am learning the purpose of these moments.

A song was playing –  the cause of my emergency surgery.  The words crept from background noise, demanding to be heard and tasted.  All I could think was, “Where was this song all those years ago?”

I don’t know, but it was here today and it gave voice to everything I had been too paralyzed and stunned to say.  It was excruciating to look back on that season and say, “Yes, that’s how I felt.  That’s what happened.”

But then the song ended and a miracle happened.  My heart was more whole than it had been five minute before.  All because the pain found its voice and said what needed to be said.

I think sometimes we are afraid to admit the healing of our hearts is a process.  Sometimes a very long process.  It’s like we’re afraid of making God look bad, afraid to say “I’m mostly healed, but maybe not all the way healed yet.”  And we’re afraid of the reactions of others, the inevitable “shouldn’t you be over this already?”

Can I say to your bleeding heart, your scarred heart, your heart in rehab – it is ok that it still stings sometimes.  It is ok that certain places are sore when they are used or touched again.  It’s ok.

Rarely does an emotional pain only happen once.  Usually there are moments upon moments, associated with certain days and colors and sounds and smells and sights.  Rarely does an emotional pain only touch one spot or one layer of your heart.

Our hearts are complex and deep.  Just as the pain seeped into layers, so the healing will come in layers.  And we don’t need to fear this.  There is a difference between processing a pain and wallowing in it.  There is a difference in acknowledging a pain with all its side effects and holding on to it.

And when it comes to making God look bad, let me tell you, when it comes to the healing of your heart, He is not concerned how He looks to anyone else but you.  Every human relationship represents an aspect of God’s heart and when those relationships become less than holy, leaving their scars, our perspective of Him is marred.  Part of our healing comes when we can see Him clearly again.  And He will walk with you as long as it takes to uproot the lies and restore His truth.

So let me encourage you – don’t shrink back from the pain.  Even if it is an old one.  Truly one day, that wound will be closed once and for all, but until then, lean into the process.  He loves you far too much to leave a single detail behind.  And when you are whole, you will be perfectly, gloriously whole.

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Filed under Healing, Pain