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Don't Let Emotions Drive the Bus

I felt remarkably alive last week.  I'm not entirely sure what to attribute this to.  Perhaps it was the extra hour of daylight after changing the clocks.  Perhaps it was the warmer-than-normal March temperature, as if spring was making an unexpectedly welcome appearance.  Perhaps it was because my house was organized, or my workload was strangely manageable, or my kids were in good moods.

Everything worked.  Like I was immersed in some sublime bubble of sunshine and good vibes, I found myself navigating each day with ease and stability.

Of course, this isn't always the case.  I also experience weeks when simple tasks feel like giant hurdles, everything is blah, and conversations with my best friend go like this:

BF: How are you?

Me: Fine.  I'm fine, except that I feel off and everything is weird.  Actually, it's possible that my whole life is wrong.  I don't know how to parent.  I'm pretty sure each of my kids is going to need therapy when they're adults.  Instead of being a productive human, I spent the last 45 minutes scrolling social media while eating Girl Scout cookies.  I have an alarming amount of wrinkles appearing on my forehead.

BF: Go on.

Me: I'm nursing the suspicion that all of my worst traits are becoming more pronounced.  I'm thinking about becoming a hermit.  I wore cute flats yesterday, but they gave me bad blisters and that's depressing because I don't even know how to wear shoes correctly.  I also tried to give up caffeine, but there was a sale at the grocery store and I came home with five six-packs of Dr Pepper.

BF: Anything else?

Me:  I'm seriously contemplating cutting bangs.

BF: You need an intervention.

Don't we all have days like this?  When we follow that rabbit hole of chaos and craziness as far as it can possibly go, when we cry at an episode of The Office because Jim looked at Pam in just the right way but our husband forgot to pick up milk, when we can't make any decisions, when we think we're not fulfilling our purpose, when we're sure that everything in our existence is, for lack of more precise critiques, just off and dull and wrong and meh.

These are days when it's especially important to not let our emotions guide us too powerfully.  These emotions are irrational; they'll steer us right into a brick wall. I've heard it explained this way:
Emotions are like toddlers. You can't put them in the trunk, but you can't let them drive the bus either.
Emotions are important -- and they're meant to be felt.  We can't ignore them, proverbially throwing them in the trunk.  (Ignored emotions don't go away.  They simply fester, then surface more potently and irrationally later.)  But we also can't put emotions in the driver's seat and let them lead us down every road.  That's merely an invitation to a life that's perpetually sidetracked and adrift.

Instead, there's a healthier balance: emotions can be in the backseat.  They can be companions that we consider and attend to, but they don't need to control us and chart our course.

I'm a firm believer that God wants us to be at peace -- not only with Him and others, but also with ourselves -- and that means that we can come to grips with our own emotions.  Irrational emotions aren't terminal, they're human.  And emotions aren't forever, they're transient.  And emotions, while certainly triggered by some circumstances, don't need to be beholden to those circumstances.

Last week my emotions looked like a well-cropped Instagram picture -- tidy, positive, aesthetically pleasing, and filtered with some happy glow.  It was awesome.  Who knows what will come next week?  My feelings might be pointing me toward the threshold of a really bad haircut, but this doesn't mean that I need to step over that threshold.

Let's find a healthy balance with our emotions.  Let's keep 'em in the backseat.  We can feel them out and give them some attention (this is healthy), but we don't need to hand over the keys to something so fickle.

Don't let emotions drive the bus.


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Let's Chat: Spring Break Road Trip Edition

Friends, it's Spring Break!  It's been cold and gray in central Pennsylvania, and last week seemed to drag on for a mini-eternity.  Weeks before a break are known to do this.  They act like an accordion -- stretching out so you feel like they're lasting forever, then compressing quickly so you mildly panic at how much you still need to get done before you reach the end.

But we made it through, and this past weekend we packed the minivan, piled in the kids, and drove south for 20 hours.  Now we're visiting family in Florida where it feels like summer, although my mother informs me that it's still winter.  I'm seasonally confused, but it's perfect.


Let's chat, friends!

Road Trips.  I'm happy to tell you that my children have become seasoned road-trippers.  A few years ago, I remember making this exact same drive and having to stop seven times in the expanse of two hours because my youngest daughter had found -- and chugged -- one of the 32-ounce bottles of Gatorade that my husband packed in the back of the van.  (We grew acquainted with many rest stop bathrooms that particular trip.)  In contrast, this trip our family worked like a well-oiled machine.  Nobody argued, nobody died of horrific boredom, and nobody had any emergencies involving bodily fluids.  All in all, it was a win.

Sunscreen.  Last summer, my husband and I noticed that we have this one bottle of sunscreen that never runs empty.  We're not sure how this is happening, but even after using it for an entire summer it's still semi-full.  We think we're experiencing some sort of widow's oil miracle.  Maybe it will run out this week.  Maybe it will last forever.  I'll keep you posted.

An Average Sandcastle.  We noticed that some fellow beach-goers had built a small, rather average sandcastle near us.  I mean, it's okay if you're into boring stuff like intricate staircases, turrets, and realistic details carved to scale.


We'll Take Your Mediocre Sandcastle and We'll Raise You a Moat.  To compliment the neighboring sand castle -- and to showcase our own vast architectural prowess on the beach -- my youngest daughter and I created a moat.  You might not believe this based on the precision of our craftsmanship, but the only tools we used were our bare hands.

Go on, admit it.  It's impressive.


Clapping for a Sunset.  Somehow, watching the sunset over the ocean never gets old.  Each time I'm touched when people, both young and old, stand along the shoreline and clap right as the sun dips below the horizon.  It feels like a very pure moment -- a true celebration of life and beauty.


Meeting a Blog Reader.  My parents hosted a cookout so we could meet three of their dear Florida friends, and I met a lovely woman who regular reads this blog.  She gave me a warm hug and then pronounced, "Somehow I thought you'd be tall and blonde!"  I think I'm flattered; apparently, I must write like a tall blonde woman.  (Miss Vicki, you're a gem!  Please keep reading even though I'm a relatively short brunette!)

Pictures of Feet.  (Is this a thing?  Do other people take pictures of their feet to mark places that they've been?)  At any rate, these are my feet, and in this picture my feet are firmly planted on a Naples pier where we watched a sunset and strolled up and down the docks to admire the boats.  I'm pretty pleased that my toenails are cute and coral, and hey -- there's a coiled rope, which nails that nautical aesthetic I was aiming for.


The Return Trip.  I don't want to think about this yet.  Twenty hours with the van facing south is tolerable because you're filled with hope.  Twenty hours with the van facing north makes you feel like you're driving into Narnia, but the bad Narnia ruled by the White Witch where it's kind of scary and depressing.

But, alas, we'll reach that point when we reach that point.  Until then, I'm going to marvel in the fact that it feels like summer, even though it's technically still winter, and enjoy this amazing spring break.

What a gift.

Thanks for chatting with me, dear reader.  I'll be back to regular blogging soon!

Take What You Need

Every so often while walking to class, I encounter a particular type of announcement tacked to a campus bulletin board.  There's nothing special about the appearance of these signs -- just standard 8x11" papers printed in black and white -- but there's something special about the concept.


Each sign invites you to take a compliment.  I imagine people tearing off a tab and then tucking the slip of paper in their pocket, placing it in their wallet, or passing it to a discouraged friend.

I've seen similar signs offering "Take What You Need," followed by a litany of helpful characteristics (courage, patience, love, hope, or strength) hanging at the bottom of the page, just waiting for a needy passersby to tear one off, as if arming themselves with that attribute.

I can't recall ever passing one without at least one tab ripped off.  Encouragement is a legitimate need.

Nearly every time I encounter these signs, I think about the concept of "taking what I need" in life from a perspective of faith.  What if these qualities are always waiting for me and I just have to take action and grab them?

Rather than fretting about decisions or worrying whether my strength will be sufficient for a looming task, what if I immediately remembered that I have a source of wisdom and strength at my disposal?  What if I asked God for the things He promises -- whether peace, belonging, forgiveness, or whatever else I need at the moment -- and then figuratively tear off that tab, taking what I need right from the start, not as a last resort after I tried to figure my predicament out on my own?

What if I took the verse, "You have not because you ask not," at its word and started asking, really asking?

Perhaps God has more in store for us and He's simply waiting for us to ask and take what we need. (He's offering, after all.)

Today, let's go ahead and ask.  Then let's dare to reach out and take what we need.

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