In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus
Christmas comes with all sorts of expectations for family togetherness, cheer, and wishes that we want fulfilled by Santa and others. Sugarplums dance in our heads. We want family and friends to join us, get along, and ooh and aah over gifts we thoughtfully chose and stuck in a gift bag just for them.
If past experience hasn’t been merry, we dream about this year being different.
We hope …
Dad won’t drink. Mom won’t cry. The baby won’t be sick. We don’t overspend. Grown children get along. Tiny tots giggle all day. There is not a meltdown one. Everyone shows appreciation. Elves show up in the kitchen.
When Christmas falls short, we fall hard. After all, it’s the holidays – the most magical time of the year. It’s not supposed to get messy.
Our wonderment goes from grandchildren’s angelic faces to wondering, “How’d the season derail?”
My husband John used to say, “It’s like this came out of nowhere.” It seemed that way to him because he ignored problems in hopes they’d go away.
Flip Wilson said the devil made him do it. There’s truth in that saying.
I say it’s our emotions.
Whether it’s sadness, overwhelm, anger, or some feeling we don’t recognize, emotions get the best of us. And I do mean, they get the best of us … they get our time, they get our energy, and they get our focus.
So, when I hear people talk like emotions aren’t much to pay attention to, I cringe a little. Okay, I cringe a lot.
Even though I admire the three women quoted below, I came away from my research about feeling our feelings confused and fearful I might have to incorporate what they said into my already messy emotional life. They’re not the only ones who treat emotions like second-class citizens, and I get it. I used to do the same.
Evangelist and author Priscilla Shirer, in her Armor of GodBible study, said, “Trust your feelings and you’re in the palm of his (Satan’s) hand.”
“Feelings don’t have intellect. They’re not smart. They just feel,” she said.
Bible teacher Beth Moore said, “Our feelings and personalities are given to us by God, but they are not meant to control us.”
Proverbs 31 Ministries leader Lysa TerKeurst said, “Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.”
Like them, I shunned my emotions for all the trouble they caused. I wanted to slap some restraint on them, put them in a corner for misbehaving, and move on to my next conquest. Even though what these three women said may be 100 percent true, I couldn’t figure out how to put controls in place and improve. The opposite happened. My emotions ran my life until I stopped running from them, disregarding them, and putting them down for feeling the way they did.
Three decades ago, on the day after Christmas, I jumped out of our rolling car as we approached a stoplight. My husband, our two young children, and fellow drivers and passengers watched. I ran through the snow screaming something about John not caring about me. It’d be an amusing story if I could forget how desperate and scared I felt.
I felt the same when I lived with my parents. I’d run out the front door and drive around in my car for hours, crying.
I left a group I love because of a situation that sounded silly when I tried to explain it. That was, until I remembered feeling sick to my stomach, which needed no explanation.
I caught myself blocking an aisle at Target as I watched an older couple, I’d say mid-70s, go back and forth about the price of twinkling lights. John nor my daughter were there to tell me to stop staring. When the woman walked away from him, she said, “Do whatever you want. That’s what you’ll do anyway.”
“You’re going to argue about this too,” he said.
They were both attractive people except the hardness on her face and the distraught look on his. As I settled down at home, I realized how out of sorts I felt after watching them.
I know, I know, this blog post should probably be about not letting people affect us, but it’s not. It’s about emotions that do affect us, especially during this season.
In January 2013, I stumbled onto a woman’s story online that haunted me until it changed me. She was a mother, a grandmother, and a prominent pastor’s wife in Texas. Four days after Christmas, Harriet Deison drove her Lexus to a gun shop across town, bought a gun, and shot herself in the parking lot.
I lay in bed night after night thinking about her. Internet access made it easy to get to know her through photos of her children, her grandchildren, and her garden club friends. Her obituary pictured her with her dog. There was a photo with her husband where she’s leaning her head on his shoulder. Since then, he’s written a book about her. I ordered it, but can’t bring myself to read it. Alongside her pictures online were countless testimonies to her kindness and help and ministry in and outside their church.
I wondered what happened so painful during Christmas – the most magical time of the year – that she couldn’t stay. I thought about ways to reassure her that she had choices other than suicide. Until the last couple of years, I never came up with anything valuable except I understood. Maybe that would have been enough.
The same thing happened this summer with a 30-year-old pastor. He left behind a wife and three little boys. Andrew Stoecklein was just back from a sabbatical he took for his mental health, a sabbatical that didn’t work.
If I could talk to Harriet and Andrew and others like us, I’d say feel our feelings, honor them, deal with them, heal from them … no matter what.
Find help. Be your own help. Talk anyway even when people don’t want to hear about wanting to die. Don’t shut yourself up or out or down. Don’t shut down your feelings. Find a way to stay alive one more day and one more and one more. Talk about being tired. It’s exhausting to feel depressed. And feel … keep feeling … feel more, and honor every single emotion even if you can’t explain it or justify it.
In a strange way, I think Harriet helped save my life. That was four years ago, so it’s taken a while, but her death pressed me to come up with ways to stay alive, which meant coming up with ways to deal with my emotions.
So, thanks to her, I took my own advice the last two years.
She gave me permission to disagree with women I respected who said to put my feelings in their place. Instead, I put them in a prominent place before God. I asked Him to help me handle myself since I’m full of them. I’ve cried a lot since then. I’ve talked to my family and friends about how I feel. I’ve stared at more people to see how they’re handling their emotions … you know, to gather dos and don’ts.
She helped me accept and admit my confusion about church and Bible sayings. After all, they hadn’t saved her. I conceded that verses like these confused me and seemed contradictory, and that God was bigger than scripture.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Because of her, I’m finally reading the Bible (a goal I’ve had for years) in its entirety for the first time. I bought five versions of the book in hopes one would click, but the Bible was never the problem, was it?
Harriet encouraged me to do whatever it took to maintain my sanity and stability, as well as my sensitivity. Instead of laying down my life for others during a season I didn’t feel like I had much to give, I practiced self-care and wrote about it. Getting better, feeling my feelings, and being there for others weren’t tradeoffs. I could do all three, but not always all at once.
Although I wish she hadn’t, I’d like her to know that laying down her life for a final time wasn’t wasted. She saved some of us in spite of her pain.
This Christmas and in 2019, I hope we’ll give ourselves the present of being present for ourselves, being aware of how we feel, and steadying our emotions. Instead of letting our emotions make us crazy, may they bring us Joy at this most magical time of the year. There are good emotions too, you know.
In This Together,
Ignoring Our Emotions is Killing Us, part 1 (let our feelings catch up to us) http://skimhenson.com/2018/11/15/ignoring-our-emotions-is-killing-us-part-1/
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Thank you Kim for sharing and being open about struggles! We all have been them! God is our refuge and strength if we only let him. Love and blessings this wonderful season to you and your family!
Thanks so much, Tricia. I appreciate having you as a friend and a reader.
We’re definitely in this imperfect life all together and challenged by so many of the same situations/emotions. I’m grateful to know God makes it all perfect in the end.
I hope your Christmas was wonderful. Much love, Kim
WOW! Just WOW!
Thanks, Debbie. I love you!
Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone. i appreciate your words and will take your advice. Feeling better. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Awe, Tatyanna, you’re never alone as long as I’m around. And I feel the same about having you as a friend.
I write so I won’t feel so alone. It used to be scary, but not it’s my saving grace, a gift from God, Him speaking through y’all when I get your comments. Thanks for your constant friendship and encouragement.
Happy New Year! I love you!
Thank you I needed to read this. If only I could apply it. I keep my emotions to me 99% of the time. But I do talk to God a lot about them. He’s the only listening. I do appreciate you sharing Kim.
Connie, I’m so thankful for you opening up here even if it’s to say you have trouble opening up. Read way back on my blog and that’s how I started. Well, actually, I started by talking about silly stuff like toe hair. Seriously … and when I switched my blog, I think my team thought I should trash those posts, but they keep me grounded. They help me see how far I’ve come as far as sharing who I am and how I feel. It’s so healing!
I’m hoping to drag you along because we’re in this together. I mean, think about it … we’re laminated for life. I love you, my dear friend!
Great, great post Kim!! I can identify with many, many aspects of what you are talking about.
My rescue came in the form of chronic pain after a car accident. I was in my 40’s. Fortunately, I had a great dr helping me sort it all out. He gave me a list of doctors/specialty areas to make use of…choose my order. If one didn’t help, mive on to the next.
The 2 helpful ones for me were physical therapy and counseling. Counseling gave me permission to stop excusing many abuses done to me as a child that I explained away. They finally caught up with me!
It’s true in one level that we can’t let our feelings take over us, but they are there as a warning sign to let us know when things aren’t right. Are we being hurt? Often a clear sign will be anger. So yo tell our kids not to get angry or to feel guilty for getting angry is like telling a fire alarm it is wrong to do it’s job when it is blaring!
The idea is that we need to ask ourselves,”what is goi g on? Why is this incident provoking so much anger?” It rarely happens at a convenient time.
Btw, I knew Harriet a little. Her husband Pete and my husband were in the same presbytery in TX. It happened shortly after we moved away. So sad. Not long ago I saw an interview of Pete about the book. He was home with Harriet watching her like a hawk. She had recently changed depression meds and was starting to improve. She had laid down for a nap and he was doing something in the house when he heard the car leave. His heart sank. So so sad. Sorry to have rambled on.
Martha, you feel free to come to my blog and “ramble” anytime you want. Your comment is so helpful. Sometimes I’m not sure I make myself clear or that people know what I’m trying to say, but you emphasized it perfectly. What an accurate example of the fire alarm.
My mom, bless her heart 🙂 … she just wanted me to be quiet unless I told her what she wanted to hear. What she didn’t want to hear is that her brother sexually abused me just like she had been sexually abused. Actually, I don’t think my uncle was nearly as abusive to me as their dad had been to her and probably to my uncle too. However, that sort of thing is damaging at any level and even when we understand its roots. I explained away what Mom didn’t. As a result, we were both a mess.
You’re right … it catches up with us. I’m grateful you and I had our turning points and that God sent help when the time was right and we were willing.
I can’t believe our connections – my friend Judy from your church and now Harriet. I felt a connection to you during our first Hope Circle. I thought God brought us together for more than that moment. I’m so grateful.
I appreciate your comment and your friendship! Thank you.
Such an important post. Thank you for always being honest, Kim.
Thanks for always encouraging me, Beth. I hope your holidays have been wonderful. Much love!
I “get” you friend. I was a pastors wife and then Seminary Presidents wife and now we’re in a different ministry and 47 years later and so exhausted and plain worn out never being or doing enough.
This was superb!
Thank you friend.
Love you, Donna ❤️
Oh, Donna, I can’t imagine! I have another dear friend (like you) who is a minister’s wife who talked to me often because I lived away and she couldn’t talk to anyone close by because … you know, she had to be perfect and holy and positive and always Godly. Goodness, who can keep all of that up … especially when she lost a grandchild? We were both devastated. We both wanted to, but it was too much.
Like everyone who lives this life, we all need Grace.
Depression was one of the worst and best things I’ve ever been through. It slapped judgement right out of me and landed me in the middle of compassion. I told God if I lived through it, I’d never judge another person for anything. I haven’t lived up to it, but I’ve come pretty close. 🙂 What a gift!
I think about you often in the Texas weather, away from where you want to be, and still living wholeheartedly for God. I appreciate our friendship so much! Thanks for being here on my blog and in my life. I love you!
I recommend a reading of this post on the loneliness, fear and rejection Jesus felt before His Passion and death. He truly was human as are we.
“Jesus did not allow his fears to turn him away from his passion and death. Instead, he made the decision with seven simple words: “Not my will, but yours be done!”
We have all experienced fear and anxiety: taking a wrong road at night and losing our way; worrying when we or our loved ones have a serious illness or accident; feeling anxious about losing our job; fearing not being accepted by our peers. Yet the word of God constantly urges us to put aside fear and anxiety. I once heard a Scripture scholar say that the words fear not or do not be afraid appear in the Bible 365 times—one for each day of the year! “
Awe, thanks, Bob. I look forward to reading what you shared. I’ve also heard that Bible statistic about “fear not.” It’s amazing how intentional God was about his message.
I hope you and Agnes had a very special Christmas. I love y’all!
From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~
Evelyn Thomas, Stacy Garceau and 20 others
Christy Young This was very good, very good. I had my hand on my mouth at one point good.
Kim Henson Awe, thanks, Christy Young! I appreciate it. <3
Michelle Duncan Kim, it amazes me that while you projected so much happy go lucky happiness in the many years I’ve known you, that you actually had such sadness and turmoil buried deep within. This motivates me to look beyond the surface and to just show people love and kindness on a deeper level. We never know how much someone we call friend may need that hug or kind word. I love your heart for others and your desire to help us all.
Kim Henson Michelle Duncan, awe, thanks, my sweet friend. I've been so blessed by having you list our home. I don't care if it ever sells. Just kidding, but you get my point. I love having you back in my life. You've been such an encouragement. You show love and kindness well. <3 My knee jerk reaction is always to say, "It wasn't that bad." That's how I handled it for years. I'm finally more comfortable saying it was that bad and knowing God was there even though I lost sight of Him several times. I appreciate your comment so much!
Maria Franken Thanks for this series, Kim. I've struggled with a certain disconnect this season. I put one foot in front of the other and got through. I'm gonna be doing my own little search and seek with my own emotions and spiritual growth in the next couple of weeks. I love you loads and appreciate your honesty, as ya touch base with what some of us try to ignore for too long... ((big hugs))
Kim Henson Awe, Maria Franken ... thank you! <3 It's hard when we're busy to sit still long enough to know what we're feeling and why, much less heal from it. But when we don't, it catches up with us and usually lands us in a place we don't want to be. I hope you had lots of time to evaluate all that you wanted to. Much love! <3
Pamela Wilk Your writing is so real life and relates to more of us than you know sweet friend. Blessings for a Merry Christmas!
Kim Henson Thanks a lot, Pamela Wilk! I appreciate you so much. <3
Kim Henson Oh, also received your text and wanted to find out more about it, Pamela Wilk. Thanks for including me.
Mary Catherine Sargent Thank You Kim. Hope to meet with your for Lunch in 2019.
Kim Henson Thanks, Mary Catherine Sargent. I hope so too! <3
From Facebook (4 shares) ~
Mary Catherine Sargent
January 2 at 10:44 AM ·
This was written by one of my FB Friends. Good read for anyone.
Kim Henson Thanks so much, Mary Catherine Sargent! <3
Stacy Garceau shared a post.
January 2 at 9:06 AM ·
Friends, I know so many of you who desperately need to hear this like I did when I read it just now. PLEASE PLEASE take a minute to read this post it could change your life #LYMI
Kim Henson Thanks so much for sharing, Stacy Garceau. <3
Stacy Garceau Kim Henson THANK YOU!!!
Julie Moore Weaver I needed to shed those tears!
Stacy Garceau Julie Moore Weaver We all do. They help us to heal! Check. Out some of her other posts and blog. They’ll bless you for sure.
Julie Moore Weaver Stacy Garceau it's comforting to know I'm not alone...I'm gonna start again just typing this
Stacy Garceau Julie Moore Weaver I totally know how you feel! ! Exactly why I shared. I know so many people others who need it too. You are FAR from alone sweetie!
Beth Stallings Odom shared a link.
December 22, 2018 at 8:12 AM ·
Kim Henson Thanks so much, Beth! <3
Mary Lou Eddings shared a link.
December 22, 2018 at 1:33 AM ·
Kim Henson Thanks for sharing, Mary Lou Eddings! <3