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Appreciation, Children, Immanuel, Immanuel Journaling, Joy, Marriage, Overwhelm, Patience, Peace, Quiet, Relational Circuits, See What God Sees

We have had another crazy round of sickness these last two weeks including two rounds of the stomach flu. With being sick during the holiday season, I have found myself falling into a bit of a funk.

Feeling discouraged and even a little depressed with the ongoing sickness, low energy levels, and endless to-do list leaves me in a place of more to do that I have time or energy to accomplish. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to get snappy with my husband and kids. I don’t like this about myself and work hard to get back in a relational state of mind, so I am not taking things out on them.

These last few weeks reminded me of a couple of years ago when life was very overwhelming. At the time our boys were two and four, and Chris injured his back. He could only work a couple of hours a day, and the rest of the time he was laying down on ice—unable to function. It was a low point for both of us.

The added strain of caring for the boys and the house by myself, and picking up some of his responsibilities with the ministry had me in a constant state of overwhelm.

Chris was unable to care for the kids (on a no lifting/no bending restriction) and I was unable to leave the kids with him for any length of time. Talk about a stressful season!

At times I struggled with resentment that he wasn’t helping, even though it was something beyond his control. Today I was reminded of what got me through and helped keep the life in my marriage and our family during that lifeless season.

Each morning and evening I would take several minutes to focus on things I was grateful for, the people and the moments that brought me appreciation. It was only about five minutes a few times a day, but feeling appreciation made such a difference in my ability to cope with the emotionally and physically overwhelming season.

This focusing was a time of remembering things that brought me joy and letting myself feel the warmth of the moment all over again. The memory can be a beautiful sunset, laughing with a friend, cuddling with your spouse, giggling with your child, a day at the beach, a hike in the mountains or any joyful memory that you can recollect.

I found that usually, the warm feeling from a happy memory would wear off after a moment or so, and to finish the full five minutes I needed to think of a series of moments. I started a list in my journal of the appreciation memories to help jumpstart my time.

I also noticed that pictures on my phone or having a photo album nearby could quickly get my mind going in the right direction. It always amazed me how just five minutes could drastically change my mood and often shift the course of the day.

I also spent a lot of time with Jesus. I would take 10 or 15 minutes whenever I could find a window in my day (often during the kid’s naptime or when they were in bed for the night) and spend time talking with Him about the things weighing me down.

I took some focused time to listen for any encouragement He would bring. I found that after our interactions, I felt a deep sense of peace, even though nothing about my circumstances had changed. I also noticed a renewed sense of patience with Chris, and the kids and my resentment about all that was on my plate would shift into a desire to serve them.

These moments of appreciation and times of interacting with Jesus provided the much-needed fuel to get me through long, hard days. They also refreshed me in a dry season of our marriage when Chris was mostly unavailable, both physically and emotionally. I feel refreshed and restored practicing these skills again in recent weeks.

My favorite method of journaling and interacting with Jesus has its basis in the Immanuel Journaling exercise we use at our training events, written by my friends John and Sungshim Loppnow, Anna Kang, and Dr. Jim Wilder. If you are interested to see the list of questions written out, you can find a downloadable copy here. Or go here to order the book, Joyful Journey.

While I don’t like the feeling of living in a constant state of overwhelm, these intentional practices gave me the daily bread I needed to sustain me and allow me to be physically and emotionally available for my family.


This blog was originally posted January 14, 2017. 

Posted in Marriage

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  1. Erna

    Yes, these disciplines really work! Last week I spent time in the hospital for the pre-op assessment for my right knee replacement. I get worn down by being asked repeatedly to spell my name, give my birthdate, address, as well as describe my pain levels and medical history. At one point I was left sitting in a skimpy gown in a very cold room (severe contrast from the 90 degree weather outside!) for a very long time. I was glad to practice deep breathing, the Shalom for My Body exercises, and immersing myself in happy memories with the aid of my JOY album of photos on my cellphone.
    Doing those things was probably the reason that I could give very calm feedback to the heart specialist when he noted how cold my hands were. (I’ve been waiting in this room for quite a while…) Also to refrain from giving attitude to the 5th person who said, ‘Can you spell your name?’ I answered , ‘Yes’, then paused…but obediently spelled my name once again. I’m glad I didn’t make her ask me again, or give a tirade about how many times I’d already answered that question that afternoon.
    Having a greater emotional capacity makes life more pleasant for me and for others.
    Thank you, Jen and Chris, for all the ‘pushing through’ difficult times and sharing your learning with us. 🙂

  2. Cheryl Garlick

    I actually have a question. I appreciate all these skills but I have recently developed an unexpected difficulty. My husband has been chronically ill and on and off depressed for over 5 years. His on-and-off emotional presence and minimal availability does not seem to be a temporary state for our family. As a result of the long term illness and lack of availability I find that sometimes when I think of joyful moments of appreciation, instead of feeling appreciation I feel a deep sense of loss and sadness. I sometimes feel jealously of others who seem to have things easier in their family life. This it exactly the opposite of what I hope to feel. Jesus meets me in my sadness which is lovely, but the appreciation exercise doesn’t seem to “work” or bring joy. Being with Jesus is a comfort, but my emotions and overwhelm do not seem to shift. I seem to function “better” if I just try to move forward, though that leaves me emotionally distant from my husband and family.

    • Jen Coursey

      Hi Cheryl, this does sound very difficult! Appreciation helps turn our relational circuits on. The hard thing about this when we are in a painful season, is with our relational circuits on, we are more aware of our pain. There are a few things that would help in the midst of this very hard season. First of all, what you are already doing, interacting with Jesus and allowing Him to meet you in your sadness will bring comfort. Additionally, practicing moments of quiet will help and finding more brains to amplify joy in your community around you would also be valuable.
      I am sorry to hear this has turned into a long term illness and season of difficult and emotionally painful times.

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