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Living Above the Level of Feeling

One of the most important signs of maturity is the ability to live and function above the level of feelings, to be able to do what needs to be done whether you feel like it or not. It's not an easy thing to do; it doesn't come naturally and it doesn't come all at once. The ability to live and function above the level of feelings is a process that often involves frustration, and it takes practice--lots of trial and error--but we actually do it in many areas of life all the time.

Take something as simple and routine as getting out of bed in the morning. Most of us have struggled with this at some point, but we all understand the concept of being at school or work on time, as well as the unfortunate consequences of being late; at some point we've figured out how to drag ourselves out of bed and do whatever has to be done to be on time. There are hundreds of examples of annoying but essential chores like this--they may never feel easy, but we learn to get over the negative feelings in order to either avoid something bad or to achieve something we want or need.

As parents, we have to learn to live above the level of feelings in the matter of teaching, training, and correcting our children. Of course, some kids are easier to deal with than others, and all kids have times when any attempt to work with them is going to be difficult, times when we can tell just by looking at them that addressing their behavior is going to be a challenge, that they're spoiling for a fight, sure to erupt in some kind of tantrum or drama; at these times it takes everything in us to stop and correct them because we know it's going to result in conflict. It's crazy how such small people can disrupt our agenda, cause us mental anguish, and even make us question if we're doing the right thing! Especially when our efforts so often seem fruitless.

The secret to being able to put aside the irritation we feel when our kids' behavior messes with our mood, our schedule, our whole outlook, boils down to just a couple of things: The first is having a clear vision--having in mind the end goal, the "prize" you're working towards. The second is making yourself think about it--keeping your "eyes on the prize"--every day.

Vision is absolutely essential to a life that has joy and meaning. If you don't want to wake up dreading the day, react in anger and irritation to every little thing, and dwell on how hard everything is, you have to have vision.

It isn't being dishonest to set aside your feelings so that you can do what needs to be done, it's being responsible.

Vision is knowing where you're going; it's understanding that life is long, and short, and unpredictable. The long part is that you're going to be the mother of your children for many, many years; you know that you want each of your children to be a certain kind of person, whether they end up being employees, spouses, friends, parents, neighbors, whatever; you know they aren't going to be children forever, and you want a good outcome for them.

The short part is that you only have TODAY to shape your children in good ways or not so good ones; you'll have opportunities to think ahead and use the difficulties that come up to build relationships, teach right from wrong, gently correct, remind them of God's love and goodness, and pray with them--or not. You don't have forever, but you do have today. You can't and won't be on top of every opportunity that comes up, but you if you're paying attention, you will see and capture one or two opportunities in the course of a given day--and that's enough!

I don't think I need to say much about life being unpredictable. Don't be morbid, that just makes you overly sentimental, but be aware that you don't know what any given day will bring, so take advantage of today!

If you don't have a vision, get one! After the kids go down for naps or bed, take a minute to write out the kind of people you want your children to be. Think through, even visualize the various ways you might help them grow into that description through the trials that come up every day. It may feel overwhelming, but you have God on your side--ask him for help, and remember that it's a process; it doesn't happen overnight.

Once you have a vision, remember it! Prepare for each day with these future humans in mind, and when the tough situations come up take a breath, put your feelings aside, and do what needs to be done. Remember, one of the most important indicators of maturity is the ability to do this. It isn't being dishonest to set aside your feelings so that you can do what needs to be done, it's being responsible. Actually, this is what you want your children to learn, isn't it? And when you (and they) do this, you'll discover depths of strength you didn't know you had; you'll also discover how much easier and more enjoyable life is when you aren't focusing on how hard it is.

Being a woman with a husband, children, and perhaps an outside job requires a lot. It's often incredibly exhausting and difficult--I do not mean to minimize it. But hey, that's life right now! There probably isn't much you can do to change your circumstances. However, you CAN hang on to your vision, and live above the weight of your emotions! Stop thinking about how hard everything is, and start living into a joyful, meaningful life!

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