Friday, 20 February 2009

Yes to God Tuesday: Chapter Seven - Calm Down: I Have Stilled and Quieted My Soul...

This chapter of Self Talk Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild (our Yes to God Tuesday study hosted by Lelia at Write From the Heart) is just amazing and although I haven’t been able to write much over the last few weeks, I feel compelled to write on this chapter. The first sentence that stood out to me was this – “Rage simmered just below the surface of my placid demeanor.” Now I don’t profess to have a placid demeanor, but rage certainly does simmer just below the surface. When does that rage come out? At night when both Jasmine and I are tired and she just does not do as I tell her to. It comes out when we are running late in the morning and all I want to do is for her to keep her head still as I do her hair. These are the times when my simmering rage comes out. I’m sorry to say that I am an anger monster, and have been quite a bit of late, but I don’t want to be, hence why Chapter 7 has been so good for me.

Jennifer says in four words something else that hit home when she recounts kicking a hole in the wall – “…I had no excuse.” And she is right; she had no excuse and I have no excuse now to act the way that I do. There are reasons why I feel as I do, but as this chapter goes on to explain, it’s how I react to those reasons then determines the end outcome. And in this area I get a big F for fail.

I always appreciate a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson and this one does not disappoint – “Coolness and absence of heat and hast indicate fine qualities.” I don’t display many fine qualities at times and I really dislike myself for that. Jennifer writes how “Our reactions reveal the temperature inside our thought closet. We can use soul talk to keep the thermostat at a cool and steady temperature. We must learn to still and quiet our souls, to tell our souls to calm down.” Going on this, the temperature of my thought closet would closely resemble what Hades must be like because it gets blazing hot in there. And yes, Jennifer is right in that I must use my soul talk to get my soul to quieten down, and I mean NOW!

And this is why Chapter 7 is so wonderful and amazing. It tells me how I can do that, and I sure do need as much help as I can get! John 14:27 tells us where we can find the peace to help us quieten our soul. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Yes, our Lord Jesus telling us simply where we can find the peace we need; in Him and not the world. This is in keeping with my theme for my week, where I have been reminding myself that true peace and happiness only comes from God and will never come from any person or any thing on earth. What great timing. Jennifer then writes that “we need to acknowledge why we have angry, smoldering embers in our thought closets to begin with. We must identify the source of our anger.” Ouch, that in itself hurts!

The next section in the chapter is titled 'Loosen the Grip'. The title explains it all. Yes, we need to loosen the control that we falsely believe that we have over our lives. Outside of, as Jennifer writes “...our attitudes…our responses to circumstances…our choice to seek God…our determination to be still before Him…our choice to acknowledge that He is God – and we are not!” we have no control whatsoever. It’s crazy to think that as Christians we may even think that we have control. We should know better, but we…I…don’t.

Jennifer writes that “So much of the anger in our lives comes from the unmet expectations and frustration that we don’t have ultimate control.” I agree totally! I couldn’t control that my ex-husband decided that other women and substances were more attractive than me. I couldn’t control that my daughter’s father, my now ex-partner, found his addiction more enticing than providing a good home for me and his child. I have no control over the fact that the man I love is separated from me by a vast expanse of water and I don’t know when I’ll see him next. And I now have no control over the fact that outside of providing love, support and prayers, I cannot make my daughter like going to school and after school care any more than I can understand quantum physics (see my postscript below for further on this topic). It frustrates me and also makes me feel helpless, but that is kind of how I’m supposed to feel so I can rely on God.

I thought that because Jasmine was used to being at pre-school all day that she would adapt well to school. I was all too “ready to embrace the mirage” as Jennifer refers to having control over our life events. I miscalculated and was not prepared enough. It’s “a pleasant daydream at best and a cruel fantasy at worst.” Jennifer “has ushered ultimate peace into (her) thought closet" by thinking the following –

“…we recognize that God has ultimate control over our lives and over the world, so we choose to trust Him even when we don’t like or understand His ways. We loosen our tight grip and begin to hold the precious things in our lives with an open hand. We trust His plan, His ways, and His goodness more than we trust our own.”

Jennifer then talks about raising fists to heaven in anger towards God. I have to say that I have never been angry at God for anything that has happened in my life. Having grown up knowing the difference between right and wrong, but still going off the narrow path, it’s not His fault that I am where I am right now. It’s because of Him that I am where I am right now, and as I learnt through Laura from The Wellblog today, if it had not have been for the mistakes I have made I would not have my little girl. My life is not under my control, only certain aspects are. My life is exactly where God knew it would be, and it is under His control.

Jennifer writes that “Peace comes when we loosen our grip and let down our guard before our heavenly Father.” I need to do that so badly that it’s frightening. I knelt down beside my bed the other night and cried big droplet sized tears as I told God why I felt as miserable as I did. Amazingly, I felt better afterwards. I allowed myself to be still for a moment as He instructs us to do in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.” I need to know that He IS in control, He IS Lord and Master over all, and that He IS leading me where I am meant to be. I just need to loosen that grip.

The last three sections of this chapter are titled 'Washouts on the Path to Peace', 'Fire in the Closet' and 'Trading Your Anger for Peace'. ‘Washouts’ talks about negative mindsets, anger over adversity and stubborn defiance. Washouts are the things “that will block our journey as we pursue the peace that Jesus grants us.” Regarding negative mindsets, I love how Jennifer writes that “the real source of anger isn’t a tough circumstance or a difficult person; it’s the way we choose to think about that person or circumstance.” I know that to be true only too well every two weeks when Jasmine goes to her father’s house. At the moment I am driving her there and back (approx 2 ½ hours of travel each second weekend) and I start getting anxious about an hour before the weekend even begins.

It is the next section – 'Anger Over Adversity' – that has the most pencil markings in my copy of Jennifer’s book. Jennifer writes that “what I have learned about this matter of adversities and hardships. Accept them. Don’t let them fill you with anger.” I was taught that lesson about 12-18 months ago regarding the situation with my daughter’s father. I react better than I ever used to, but I have let my guard slip lately. Marcus Aurelius says, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.” Wise words indeed! My reaction to my daughter’s father and his actions are much more detrimental to Jasmine and I than the man himself (also see postscript about this). Jennifer writes that “You can’t often change adverse circumstances, but you can change your reaction to it.”

The last two sections of the book cover using water to quench the flames of the thought closet instead of gasoline. Proverbs 15:1 says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I need to be more mindful of how I speak to myself. My “soul needs the water of the Word” for my thought closet. I need to “appreciate” myself and “find truth and speak it to” my soul. “The words you speak to yourself – the thoughts you dwell on, receive, and personalize – can either cause anger to ignite or allow peace to prevail.”

Jennifer writes about Thomas Merton observing that “man is not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself, and he is not at peace with himself because he is not at peace with God.” I long to find that peace.

“Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” – Romans 5:1-2

“When you have peace with God, you can have peace from God – the peace that Christ brings.”

“So when things heat up, tell your soul to calm down.”

A postscript to this post (even before I publish it) is that I received a revelation through admonishment this evening that my actions, my reactions, and my apparent but not obvious until now ignorance towards the affect that these things have on my daughter is the reason that she is like she is at present. I knew that my angry outbursts and lack of self-control in this area was the cause of hers, but it wasn’t until these words were given to me tonight – “so you are obviously crying a lot and so is she” – that it really dawned on me. Every single little thing that I do is affecting my child and I have been oblivious to it. I have just spent the last 30 minutes lying on the floor listening to Third Day and crying and praying to Jesus and my heavenly Father for forgiveness and guidance. Admonishment, even if in just eleven short words, is difficult to deal with, but it has been the best thing for me after this week. Thank you goes to my faithful admonisher and covering, who I know says what he says with love.


  1. What great insight and application. I am grateful to you and all the other Yes To God women for making this books study part of your lives. Jennifer Rothschild

  2. What a great post! God has also been discecting my character as a result of seeing things mirrored in my older son. Oh, how I don't want to pass on my weaknesses to Him! Thankfully, with Christ, He can heal. He can CHANGE. Oh, how glorious.

    Thank you also for your sweet comments on my blog. God is everything to me. But I do like to decorate a lot too !!:)
    Maybe I will be fluffing up the many mansions in heaven???

  3. Paula, Speaking as a kindergarten teacher for the past 14 years, the adjustments do get better. You and your precious little one remain in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Paula,

    Sweet friend, you are too hard on yourself! I remember those days when my boys were younger and bedtime and morning routines were anything but! YOu are doing a wonderful job. I'm glad my words spoke to you. I do believe that He uses everything. Every Thing. All the good. And all the bad.

    Your little one is so blessed to have you as her mommy.

    Sending hugs,

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this, Paula! I didn't get to read this week's chapter, but after reading your post, I think I'll go to bed early and do some backtracking. God bless you for your thoughts and prayers through my crazy week:)

  6. Paula one of my favorite things you said in this post is: "The title explains it all. Yes, we need to loosen the control that we falsely believe that we have over our lives."

    This is a very insightful, revealing and honest (heart open) message filled with nuggets of truth and nuggets of wisdom tools not solely for your growth but for all of us.

    We all have "our areas" for you anger, for me impatience. I can truthfully say the Lord has done a work in me and took me through many testing's, teachings and moments of conviction and times of encouragement in that area. So continue to seek God, cry out to Him and desire to be the best Mommy that He's created you to be. You have a very apparent love for your daughter that is beautiful and your heart is to bless her and please God. Don't beat yourself up along the way.

    God bless you.