I was chopping vegetables with my five-year-old a while ago when he told me a story. He began by referencing something we both heard that morning, but it was his interpretation of what he heard that caught my attention. It caught my attention so much that I could feel my physical anger reaction almost immediately.

My heart beat faster. My breaths shortened. My hands started to shake. I was angry. Within seconds I was forming a response. I wrote down what he said, I formulated the story for my husband, and I started composing a mental email.

I expect my child to be exposed to misogynistic thinking in advertising and television, I don’t expect him to face it here, I wrote in my head to people involved.

I listened to my son, and I let myself get angrier and angrier thinking about it. I was so angry that at some point I realized I was enjoying being angry and enjoying having a reason to be angry about a specific group of people. The evening went on, and when we had some privacy, I told my husband about the conversation. He suggested that perhaps I didn’t understand the context. He told me the story because he and my son had been there for the whole thing. He expanded out the boundaries I put around it.

I didn’t write any protest emails. I didn’t talk to anyone. I misunderstood the context my son was talking about because I wasn’t there for all of it.

The situation with my son didn’t need an angry email from me, but after my emotions settled, I could see something else.

My anger was pointing at something.

It was like an arrow directing my attention toward a situation, a bigger situation,  that needed to be addressed. The specifics here are not important, but I needed to be able to separate what I was getting angry about in the moment from what I actually needed to pay attention to. Because what it pointed at is something that required action.

The bigger picture involved an important decision we have to make. We needed to reflect on our reasons. This would mean many complex, sometimes difficult, discussions between us as a couple. It meant we needed to communicate that decision with others, people who may not understand or may be hurt by our actions. And there were many, many things in there that I needed to let go.

You don’t have to do much to find anger. Just turn on the news. Spin the dial on your radio. Listen closely to your friends. Pay attention to your emotions. We are an angry people. We know more, we feel more and that can keep us from seeing what we need to do. I wonder about your life and its specifics. What events or people push your buttons easily? What else could it be pointing to? Perhaps there is more action for you to take.

Being angry is easy, looking at what our anger is trying to get us to see can be so much harder, taking action can be harder still.

It requires our courage, vision and action. It means we need to slow down, let our emotions diffuse, let the anger go, but let the arrow remain. However difficult it may be for you to look at the thing anger wants you to see, dealing with it is what will bring freedom and peace.

Now it’s your turn: What is anger pointing at in your life? What steps do you need to take to deal with it? Is there someone with whom you could share this who could help you discern what to do next? 

This post is day 8. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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So you’ve felt angry, the grief overwhelms you at times, there is an unexplicable sadness in your heart when you think about your losses, and then what? How long does it last? How can you get over it? I want to tell you, Expect negative emotions. Accept negative emotions.

I didn’t say to accept negative behavior – for anyone who is wondering – there is no justification for angry words or actions or passive aggressive conversations or hurtful ways of behaving. Those things will always be wrong, requiring humility and repentance to turn from them, and forgiveness to make things right with the people we have wounded.

But negative emotions are different from negative actions. Emotions are feelings caused by our circumstances, and while we cannot allow our life to be determined by them, we have to acknowledge our anger. We have to honor our grief. We can allow our emotions to lead us to places in our hearts that we must face for the work of wholeness to take place in our lives. 

Talk to someone about how you are feeling, preferably not someone who is in the transition with you because they have their own set of negative emotions. It has been crucial for me to find women who are not connected with our transition, friends in Sweden, friends in Germany and friends in other places, to whom I can vent. Irrationally. Negatively. Anything I want to let out, I let it out to them, they are a safe place for these negative feelings. I am angry because I don’t want to move. I am so sad. Life with kids is disappointing and discouraging. Find safe people who can handle the full weight of your emotions but who do not try to fix you or explain your emotions away.

Accepting my negative feelings and acknowledging them to someone else is the door to letting those feelings out of my life.

For those of you who are parents, I want to tell you to expect negative – very negative – emotions and behaviors from your kids during a move. When we moved from Switzerland to Sweden, Big Boy was only two years old. We moved everything out of our apartment, and the boys and I stayed separately at a new place for a week while Husband went to Sweden to start unpacking. Big Boy woke up five to seven times in the night almost every night, and this is after he had been sleeping through the night for well over a year. He woke up more than our newborn did. I was blind with fatigue and frustrated out of my mind. I wish I could tell you I was gracious and patient. I was not. I did not realize how afraid and unsettled he must have been, he had lost his only home and watched his physical life get packed into boxes, and he was apart from his Papa for the longest stretch ever in his life.

This move we’ve dealt with tantrums, defiance, all kinds of controlling weirdness with food and sleep and many other things. Yes, there are certain behaviors we cannot tolerate. But our kids need their fears acknowledged. My sons need to know that they can be sad about leaving their home. They do not need to move on. Right now, it is time to grieve.

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They need to hear me give words to their emotions when they do not have the vocabulary for it yet, Are you sad because we are not in the yellow house anymore? You are angry because you don’t have your toys here. You don’t want to say goodbye to your friends. You are sad about leaving Sweden.

And they need to hear me honestly express my own emotions about this move. I was getting ready for our going away party by hanging up lanterns when Big Boy came up to me. He was distressed because he had accidentally broken one of his shoes. But I could tell it was something else, he was falling apart completely. We had set out a table of our things that we didn’t want anymore for people to take, and he had asked me several times that afternoon why people were taking our things.

I pulled him into my arms and said, Are you sad because there are things here that we are giving away? Do you feel afraid that we won’t have anything left for us? Are you sad because we are saying goodbye to our friends and to Sweden?

He nodded yes to each question and sobbed in my arms. I held him, and I cried, and I told him the only thing I could, Mommy is so sad, too, buddy. I’m so sad to leave the yellow house and to say goodbye to Sweden.  

Now it’s your turn: Is it difficult for your accept your emotions? What can you do to help yourself feel your feelings?

I’m linking up with The Grove, part of the Velvet Ashes community today. 

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 Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas

This post is day 7. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
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G[/ba-dropcap]rief and loss over time give way to a stronger emotion: Anger. I want to give a disclaimer here, I am no counselor or psychologist, so I am writing here more out of my experience rather than anything else. I can see very clearly with every one of my moves weeks and months where anger was easily and quickly triggered by the most random of things.

After we moved to Sweden, we tried to find a large rubbish bin, and couldn’t. We ended up with a small rectangular box under our sink. I had an eight-week-old baby and a two-year-old in diapers, we probably filled that bin once a day if not more in the first months. Having to throw out the trash regularly made me angry, not every now and then, but very, very frequently. It wasn’t about the rubbish necessarily, it was about being in a new place where I couldn’t figure out a solution to a problem that would have been easily solved in a country where I was more familiar with stores.

Moving to a new country or place is a study in being out of control, and this can and will often lead to strong feelings of anger.

For me the anger was directed toward my husband and kids, and this manifested itself in different ways, very regularly in careless, angry words and other times in worse behaviors. I don’t have a lot of advice on how to deal with this, believe me I’m still dealing with this in our current move. Here are a few things I try to practice that help.

Expect it. As crazy as this sounds, when a move is on the horizon, it helps me to expect to be angry about little things and big things. I have to expect it so that I create some margins and help structures in my life.

Time to myself. I need it every day to recharge, to journal my feelings out, to pray and ask God for strength, and to speak words of truth over myself.

Ask for help. If I can tell that I am getting angry with the kids, I try to tell Husband, so he knows and can pray for me, and can give me some time away from the kids in the evening or weekend. I try to get a babysitter.

Ask for forgiveness. There have been months when I’ve asked one of my kids for forgiveness almost daily because of mistakes I’ve made, and I’m not talking about just saying, Sorry. It’s, Mommy is sorry for _______ and the way it made you feel disrespected, sad, ______. I can see that this hurt you deeply, and I am so sorry about this. Please will you forgive me? As painful as it is to make the mistakes, to say these words, to look into the eyes of people I love whose trust I have broken, the practice of asking my husband and children for forgiveness is also deeply humbling and renewing. It keeps – I hope – our hearts connected to each other, when anger tries to separate us. I also ask God for forgiveness, and often I do this on the spot in front of my children.

See a counselor. In a season when I was more seriously concerned about the consequences of my anger, I started seeing a counselor who helped me face some of the pain in my own life that was leading to the mistakes I was making. There are no easy fixes for the anger and its consequences, but professional help with someone who is qualified can be a good place to start especially if you think that you can no longer manage your own self, and if the people around you express the same concerns.

Now it’s your turn: What tips do you have for dealing with anger?
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