I love new beginnings. I’m a girl who enjoys looking back, reflecting, evaluating, and dreaming for the future. For me, a new day, season, or year means opportunity to clean out the old, purge clutter, refocus, slow down, set goals, and reflect on what God has done in my life. I’m the nerdy girl who loves to turn the calendar page to a new month. I love the newness and blank slate it brings, representing a fresh start.
At the beginning of this year, I felt a need to start a new exercise regime. Not a physical, let’s-get-fit exercise, but a new mental and spiritual regime I am trying to practice and embrace. I have noticed lately that I allow many of my emotions to cloud my mind and my vision of what is actually true. Feelings well up inside of me and overflow, often overcoming me and putting me into an “emergency—my life is falling apart or is awesome” mode.
I have always been a person who feels my emotions deeply. I am also a person whose emotions seem to affect or leak out onto the people around me and affect them as well. Growing up, marrying, mothering four children, and teaching students helps me realize the responsibility that comes with my overflowing emotions. I must steward them by sifting through them and deciding what is real and what is fleeting. | For more on healthy emotions, don’t miss our podcast episode: How to Feel Your Emotions in a Healthy Way With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 075
In my recent more deliberate quest to pay attention to God’s voice in my life, I have also been heightened in my awareness of the voices that don’t match His. Sometimes it’s hard to discern which is which, so I have started writing down what I feel and what I know. I started this practice after reading 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
In these verses, Paul is referring to the unseen, invisible battle that is waged against and within our minds. This battle we fight is often not of the flesh, but of the spirit. The weapons we must use are not physical, but spiritual: prayer, the Word of God, faith, the power of the Holy Spirit, and reciting God’s provision and promises. Paul has to tear down wrong thinking and recognize the grasp it can keep on his mind and affections. These strongholds, or places of wrong thinking and behavior, can overtake our spirits if we don’t fight and take them captive. A stronghold is “a place where a particular belief is strongly upheld.” Through my daily living and empty, mindless pursuits, a stronghold can root itself in my belief system without me even realizing it.
In order to sift and take captive my thoughts, I have begun a new exercise.
First, I list what I feel. Then, I write what I know.
I feel: Often overwhelmed with how to spend my time. There is so much to be done, and I could choose to spend it so many different ways. How do I balance it all? What should I prioritize?
I know: God has made me a people-gatherer. He is sovereign over my time. I can choose right and I can choose left, and He is alive and active in both directions. He will direct me on who to spend my time with, be it my husband, kids, or friends; He will also show me when to be quiet and rest. My job is to ask, and to make space to listen.
I feel: Like a teenager when I step into other people’s houses that are grand and beautiful. I feel like I don’t measure up. I feel like I need to have nicer furniture, or fancier decor, and grow up into a real adult.
I know: God has graciously given me so much. I have a beautiful home that accurately reflects our family. I know that at my core I thrive with simplicity and less. I actually prefer it, and feel more alive. I know that chasing after things only makes me want more stuff, and that is not what I want to be about. I know that my response to other people’s beautiful things should be rejoicing with them, and enjoying with them, not comparing to them. I know that God asks me to recite His faithfulness. I know that I must not walk blindly, but intentionally count His gifts, big and small, so I don’t forget the ways that He actively provides.
In order to sift and take captive my thoughts, I have begun a new exercise. First, I list what I feel. Then, I write what I know.
I feel: That I need to lose weight, or eat clean, or start a new exercise program so that I can get to that place where I need to be physically. I feel high expectations of what it means to be in shape. After a summertime surgery which I am still recovering from, I miss the endorphin high of being out of breath and my heart pumping.
I know: That life is not about being better, faster, and stronger physically. When I was younger that used to be my pursuit, but as I’ve aged I see that pounding my body is not honoring my body. God has asked me to live fully, mentally, physically, spiritually, in the body He’s given me. At this phase in my life that means to slow down and learn to listen to my body. It means to move it, stretch it, and sometimes get out of breath. It means to laugh. It means to respect it by fueling it with whole, healthy, real food, but also eating dark chocolate and drinking wine. I know that not pounding my body is better for my body. I know that my body is beautiful just as it is, that is does not have to be in that place where I think I should be. I know that health and wellness should be my focus, because that honors Him, not me.
I feel: Overwhelmed by all that is on my plate. How can I love and serve my husband well, mother four kids, teach 4th graders creatively, be part of a church plant, love my neighbors, and be a loyal daughter and friend? How do I have the capacity to do all of the things?
I know: I don’t have the capacity to do everything. I don’t. There is no way that I can be everything to everyone. I will let people down. In today’s world where we have so much information and so many relationships to manage, we simply can’t do it all. I know that Jesus will be my strength where I am weak. And that in the places that He has called me to serve, He will give me capacity. He says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, and apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Like the plants in the flower pots on my patio that die when they are not watered, but stand up proudly when they are, I must turn my face towards Him each day for capacity and strength.
God made me a woman who deeply feels, and while I will practice this new exercise, it will not negate the importance of my feelings. There is beauty, and sometimes validity in my emotions, but as I learn to keenly detect God’s voice in my life, I want to sift and be aware of the subtle ways that my feelings shift my mindset. I want to live within the boundaries and freedom of the truths that I know. There is such safety in God’s unwavering truth. The next time my “emergency” mindset overtakes me, I want to bravely recite and remember my firm foundation.
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