Why we need to Feel all the Feels

“Inside/Out” Board Game, granddaughter Abigail Age 7

      During the last Christmas season I was commissioned (long distance) with procuring a set of plush character toys from the movie “Inside/Out”. You know the gang–Anger, Joy, Sadness, Fear and Disgust.  These were to be gifted from their beloved Auntie M to my two youngest grandsons–ages 6 and 3–on Christmas morning when my son and his family arrived for the holiday.

      The gifting took a bit of reconnaissance –back and forth texts and emails with my daughter in law, phone messages ironing out who would pay for what and how. I would be purchasing them on behalf of the aunt who wouldn’t be with us and well, it was all a little complicated. Finally, father Christmas and I located the items on Amazon via the Disney Store and we were in business.

Except for one thing: there was no Sadness doll. Sold out. Apparently she was the most popular character, for good reason.


      For those of you who have seen the film, you know ‘Sadness’ is the heroine of “Inside/Out”‘; without her, blue hair and saucer-sized glasses included, the little girl Riley’s emotions are incomplete.  
Because, to paraphrase one of the characters, “You can’t feel Joy all the time.”

Back to Christmas morning.

      Gift opening time came;  after much fanfare to unwrap said Big Gift, cameras and phones poised, we thought the littles wouldn’t notice the lack of the Blue One. All the other colors would be there: Anger, Red, Fear; Purple, Joy; Yellow and Disgust; Green. The boys ripped open the box spilling tissue paper to the Heavens and within 2 milliseconds exclaimed, “There’s no Sadness!!”  

That blue girl’s presence was sorely missed. Two wise little guys let us all know the set of Feelings was incomplete without her.
      Facing Palm Sunday and heading into Holy Week as we contemplate Christ’s Death and Resurrection, I think it is critical to remember without the sadness of Good Friday there is no Joy of Easter morning.

      A.J. Swoboda, in his book “A Glorious Dark” talks about the problem of only embracing one day of the Easter Triduum thereby limiting ourselves to Friday or Sunday Christianity. His book’s powerful premise is we need all three days–the tragedy of Good Friday the darkness of Saturday AND the joy of Easter Sunday.

“Friday Christianity is the religion of those who’ve chosen to find their identity in a spirituality of defeat, death and loss.  Their spiritual depth abides solely in the torment of suffering on the cross.  Friday Christians worship suffering so much they assume one must be experiencing loss and suffering in ordered to be considered “honest” or “authentic” or “real.”

Sunday Christianity is equally problematic. These chipper, slick, ever-too-happy Christians see God in, and only in, victory, prosperity and blessing.  Everything for them, is a footnote on their own pursuit of personal happiness. When Christians live in Sunday alone, they fabricate a kind of hassle-free approach to Christian spirituality that, while outwardly appealing, is entirely impotent–lacking power, girth and any amount of stamina.”
‘A Glorious Dark’, A.J. Swoboda, p. 4

      I confess I used to be a Sunday Christian.  I am an Extrovert, First Born, Impulsive, Impetuous and Intuitive–I can find the fun in anything. The yellow sunshine of Joy was my litmus test for how well I was following Jesus–and how well YOU were following Jesus. Sick? Having trials? Problems looming? You must be doing something wrong.  

      Ah, well, isn’t God patient?  I’ve come to learn these last few years how truly complete we are when we live through and experience all the emotions God has given us–fear, anger, sadness and joy. Our feelings reveal to us not only our desperate humanity, bankrupt without the redemption of God, but also can become channels for God’s glorious joy when there is a resurrection on the other side.

       Our initial repentance and turning towards Jesus is just the beginning of many resurrections. We grow, spiraling back on lessons and seasons in our lives, embracing the dark and the delight and dying daily to our sin, rejoicing in more freedom as we walk this labyrinth of life.

Let’s walk together and give each other room to embrace it all, 
even, especially, the hard times and Sadness.
Shhhhh…don’t tell my grandkids, the Sadness plush doll should be in their mailbox soon.

Linking with Kelly for the #Small Wonder Link up

Roots and Trees-How are You Growing?

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
                                                   J.R.R. Tolkien
We have two lovely jacquemontii birch trees that have been in our front yard for 20 years. They are my favorites for two reasons: I love the brilliance of their bright bark in the Winter and the graceful sweep of their tiny-leafed branches as they drape my windows in the Spring. They have been babied through the seasons ever since they were planted, tended by my husband who wrapped one in a plastic bag to ‘repair’ it during the last ice storm over 10 years ago.
the trees survived!
What is it, I wondered, about trees that gives them the wherewithal to withstand too much weight and stress, too much brutal wind and cold? How could they bounce back after that kind of load?

As I often do when I need the facts, I turned to my trusty World Book Encyclopedia (c. 1956). I love metaphors and the words about trees got me thinking:

 “The fastest growing part of a tree is hidden in the ground.”
               When you’re walking with Jesus, life may not look like it’s going along swimmingly on the outside, but looks can be deceiving. I have been aware more than ever lately of digging deep in my faith and trust in Jesus.

“The roots are an earth machine that operates in darkness and dampness.”
                The roots grow best – like a ‘machine!’- in darkness and dampness. Being in the dark–not knowing the way forward or being clueless about where I am right now doesn’t faze God one bit.  In fact, my life grows best in the dark times. Wow.

“The chief water-collecting part of the root system is made up of tiny, pearly-white hairs called root hairs—A root hair is as fine as a spider’s thread.”

A spider’s thread is as fine, finer than spun silk, and strong, very strong.  (Have you ever tried to walk through a spider web?)  

 “Root hairs grow just back of the tip of a root. They appear suddenly wherever there is moisture.”
      Lightbulb moment! Growth comes from living water.  Thirsty? Dry? Dig down deep(er).

        “The real feeders of the tree are very small, mere threads; the bulky muscular roots are for strength; its life is in the rootlets that fringe them…”
            Life is in the rootlets that fringe them. Think of it, small, thread-like tentacles, digging down deep, searching for water.

I want to be like that--welcoming to grow unseen ‘underground’, unafraid of the dark when it comes, and embracing my thirst for God because it drives me to Him.

No wonder Scripture says to be like a tree rooted and established in love.”

When life is difficult and dark and demanding, dig down deep. 

You’ll bend instead of break, buried beliefs bearing beauty in your branches.

What kind of tree are you?
this is a significantly edited version of a post from
February 2012, when I was in the dark about a lot of things…

My Favorite Things {Vol. Four}

‘My Favorite Things’–a sporadic gathering of posts you may have missed because they’re buried in The Middle Pages. You know what I mean, eight pages into the ‘A’ Section of the paper you find a story you think belongs on the Front Page.  “Why is that buried there? I almost missed it!”   Here are few thoughtful gleanings from the virtual pages of the interwebs. 

Old Tables and New Life {Roots & Sky Edition}

I pour lemon oil onto my dust rag, massaging the small table’s worn and chipped surface. No amount of elbow grease or lemon oil will cover up the wear and tear–scuffs from an old plant container, water rings from one too many glasses of iced tea, the solitary black circle from a dropped cigarette.
Simply an every day side table, no precious wood or dovetailed joints in its construction.  Made of common mahogany, one small drawer holds the flotsam and jetsam of my living room, a shelf underneath supporting a large basket of books.
There is an angry spot on the bottom shelf where some rubbing alcohol spilled. I thought it would come off with the lemon oil, but the surface’s finish prohibited such repair.
Chips, scratches, streaks….the wood is far from perfect, but no matter. We will keep the table, hauling it into and out of the garage each Christmas making way for our holiday tree. Repolish, re-oil and sift through the drawers contents as needed.
Why? This piece belonged to my mother and my mother has been gone for over 30 years. I have so few of my mother’s things in my home; this little table is a daily reminder. Its value is only in the eyes of the beholder—and I am thankful to behold its glossy, worn presence.

In Christie Purifoy’s new book, “Roots and Sky” she ponders the power of every day wonder in simple things, viewed through the lens of the Seasons.  I asked a friend if I could begin reading “Roots&Sky” with the ‘Spring’ section, skipping over Fall and Winter. She counseled me to begin at the beginning, explaining there was a reason for the Autumn backstory.
I’m very grateful I started with Fall. Christie’s journal chronicles the trials and triumphs encountered when she and her husband purchased a very old farmhouse high on a hilltop in Pennsylvania. Old, like built in the 1880’s old.
 Dreaming of a grand future—flowers, farming, fellowship with neighbors–Christie and her husband begin the daunting process of reclaiming the old and worn and broken down.

Without the dark and empty slate of Autumn/Winter, 
we cannot appreciate the riot of new birth in the Spring.
What a parallel for life.  As I sit here typing on this rain-soaked day, the old, tired earth is waking up. There are signs everywhere.  Although the mantle of ground has been beaten down, grass browned and soggy, leaves laying in saturated piles scattered about, the scilla and tulips are peeking out. The Crocosmia are threatening to invade the vinca, my Pink Viburnum puts on its saucy show.
Viburnum ‘Pink Dawn’
Why do we tend the earth? Why do we tend anything that we hope will grow and yield a present joy or future beauty in our lives? Perhaps it is a statement about our confidence in the future.

From the ‘Autumn’ chapter:
“This house is deteriorating. My body is dying. We are subject to the same terrible decay.  But worth is not measured in such terms.
Once upon a time, God called his creation good.  And no curse of sin unwound those words. Gnarled maple trees. Plaster walls. An ordinary woman’s ordinary body.  All good.
To care for these is to say to death, “You are not the end.” p. 55.
This is why we care for the earth, care for ourselves, care for our homes. 
Death is not the end, but a beginning, we know, to another life with our Saviour.  The physical earth mirrors the spiritual, the cycle of seasons death/life/care, death/life/care ultimately mirror the power of God’s saving.
purple scilla
red flowering quince
From the ‘Spring’ chapter:
“To remember as the earth remembers is a powerful thing. 
Winter remembers death and spring remembers life…”  p. 121
‘Death’ is a near naked lilac bush with bare bumps of buds threatening to bloom.
‘Death’ is an old, worn table or a scuffed threshold or a broken down fence.  

We repair, we replace, we rejoice when the new comes and the old holds. When life stirs in the ground and in us we remember—what we love will hold us until that final day we see our Jesus.
But for now we plant, we tend, we care.  Spring is coming.  
Winter Hazel (smells like honey!)

How to Hear God’s Voice (and maybe your own)

“Come away with me by yourselves and get some rest.” Jesus, Mark Chapter 6

Pushing the patio chair into place undercover, I scan the deck for my little table. I want to sit a while and take advantage of the peace and quiet to listen.
Not read my Bible, read a book, look at my phone, just sit with my journal and pay attention to what I hear, what I see, what my heart wants to tell me.
But I need my footstool first.  My legs are too short to touch the decking and I can’t relax ‘til my feet are in place. Ah, there it is hidden under the plastic tablecloth out of the rain.
Now I’m settled. My eyes train on the birds at our feeders. I grin at their acrobatic antics, bouncing marionette-like from feeder to tree, swooping like jets coming in for a landing. I’m quite certain the only reason God created birds was to delight us and him.
Instead of writing anything, I begin to read the lines I penned over the past year; little conversations with Jesus and I show up on the page. ‘Aha’s’ are circled or highlighted, questions I pondered and the answer that came after it are underlined. There are pencil scratchings in the margin, messages from the Spirit of God right to my soul.
Someone asked the question recently, ‘What is saving your life right now?’
And here’s what I have to say–the spiritual practice of listening, stopping to hear God’s voice to me, and hear my own voice.  This is what I know:
  • When you give God time to touch you, He will.
  • When you give Him space to speak, He will.
  • When you give Him room to move, He will.


Part of my conversations with Jesus lately have been about story—mine, in particular.
Story that includes things like the day job I have and how it affects my understanding of God.
Or the love I have for books and their power to move me. And maybe others.
Or the passion I have about social issues and shining a light in dark places.
My random thoughts can run all over and it’s hard to rein them in.
At the end of the day I sat with my bedside journal–I have lined volumes in many, many places in the house. I scanned the lines I’d written, finding over and over again the truest parts of me on the page.
The line that caught my eye before I turned out the light was, “Trust your voice.” I felt the Holy Spirit say, “I have a story to tell of my goodness and love through your life alone. I have a way of encouraging others through your testimony and your story.  Stop trying to be like everyone else and write what you know, tell the world what you hear.”

I woke with that in mind, full of a confidence that God will guide my thoughts , that I’ll hear Him speak not only to me, but through me, as I continue to give Him space and time to speak.
How might you take some time or space to make room for God to speak to you this week? Trust what He says…and trust your own voice—we need you.

Linking with Modern Mrs. Darcy and 

Kelly for #Small Wonder Link up