Not Hardly: Guest Post by Janet Surette

10336627_10152008749056082_168895000925963795_nLast May, I attended Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, an amazing conference that I wrote about earlier. While I was there, I met some sweet women strong in their faith. Two I was able to spend a lot of time with were the two beautiful women above. Why do some kindred spirits have to live so far away? The woman on the right is Janet Surette, a lady of wisdom, grace, and depth who I wish I could learn from on at least a weekly basis. Wait, I can learn from her on a weekly basis now that she’s started her weekly blog! Today, I’m showing off her latest blog post on a topic I find to be very important, especially for young mothers.

pcwnlkeceudnndc1“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” 

Proverbs 16:32

I was raised on home cooked meals, good churches, tree climbing and old western movies.  In my high school years, while other girls hung pictures of their favourite, hunky singer on their walls, my room boasted a large picture of John Wayne, my favourite cowboy.

Who doesn’t love a tough and rugged champion?   In one movie, when a bad guy says to the aging gunslinger, “I thought you were dead!”  With his trademark gruff, John Wayne scoffs, “Not hardly.”  Second only to my darling dad, this was my mighty man of choice.

Humanity seems drawn to might.  We love super hero stories.  We revere powerful athletes.  We honour heads of state.  We respect corner-office dwellers.

But… did you know that a mightier breed exists?  People better than valiant warriors and unconquerable cowboys?  And those would be….

People who are slow to get angry.

I know.  I know.  It sounds so unspectacular, it is hard to take seriously.  But that is the biblical truth.

It is people who are in control of their emotions that the Bible tells us are mightier than warriors.  It also follows then, that if these folks are mighty, people quick to anger are not.  My life experience compels me to agree.

When I look back on the moments where I have surrendered to my anger, I have never felt more out of control in my life.

In those moments…

We are powerless.  Swept along in a crashing river of toxic venom that wilts everything in its path.  And once those floodgates have opened, we can’t seem to swim out of the black torrent because the current is so strong and the sinful release is dangerously intoxicating.  One wilting splash follows another, and another and another, till it finally runs its course and all we can do is look back and survey the destruction.

We are not in control.  We abdicate our emotional autonomy and turn ourselves into puppets, allowing another person’s sin or any difficult situation to pull our strings.  When we are quick to anger, we live our lives at the mercy of anyone who offends us and anything that happens around us.

We are weak.  Oh, we might intimidate our children while they are small, but the day will come when they will recognize our anger for what it is.  They will no longer regard us as powerful – they will pity us as pathetic.

Can we continue to rationalize our anger as power or authority we are justified to wield?

Not hardly.

If you are like many women I know who have dared to be honest, this verse pricks hard at your conscience and the wounding and wilting your anger has inflicted grieves your spirit.  But you are most certainly not alone.  Anger is a consuming sin that has plagued human history.  From the first murder committed in what was only the second generation of humanity, God has warned us of its dangers through historical narratives, wisdom literature, and New Testament lists of nasty things that wreak havoc on our hearts and relationships.

Change is needed friend.  And by God’s grace there is hope.  I remember clearly being introduced to that hope as a 9 year old girl in Iowa.  As I stared in horror at the porcelain towel rack that had been ripped out of the wall and now lay shattered on the bathroom floor because of my anger, my father showed me that, like him before me, we angry people can find hope and help only in the transforming work of Jesus Christ.

Age 9 with dad

With the author’s dad, Eric, in her tree-climbing domain.

I love our verse for today, not because it specifically describes our hope, but because it gives us eyes to see anger for what it really is.  And if we will choose to be wise, that gift of clarity should motivate us to run daily toward our only hope.

If we want to be mighty women who can influence our families, friends & communities for all that is good and eternal, we must undertake the greatest conquest of all – the conquest of our own spirit.

Shall we saddle up girls?

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That’s the author on the right as John Wayne and little sister Leslie as Kate Quantrell.

If you want to hear more from this woman of wisdom, you can find her blog here: http://janetsurette.com/.

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Happy bride. Mom to three darling ladies. An old school girl who loves God, home, deep friendships, a good nap, solitude and perfect grass.

Anger, Part Six: Mirror

1939638_10152291600346645_227413739_nThis reason for anger is the most disturbing to me. I think my anger flares the worst when Little E is exhibiting some of my same sin tendencies. I don’t think it all out at the time, but when I see my own detestable sin in my children, I hate the behavior all the more. You’d think I would have more grace for the behavior since I understand it well!

Hypocrisy much?

I’ve seen this in other people–it’s nice and obvious from the outside, of course, but me, too?

Mr. C is devastated because he didn’t win a game? Huh, I think my running coaches could tell you some tales of tears over goal times not being met–almost every race. JP is complaining? Yes, I have been known to have that attitude inside of me. Temper? Well, I don’t usually scream loud enough to burst ear drums, but after all, I have been able to write six blog posts on anger. I’m usually annoyed when Little E moans and grumps but refuses to put words to her problem–she’d rather try for sympathy as long as she can first. But I don’t act the martyr, do I? Actually, I don’t like to admit it, but I have gotten a little weird pleasure out of that now and then. For example, “No, Greg, I’ll finish cleaning the dishes” (…even though I just spent two hours in the kitchen making dinner and getting the kids to eat it, and I’ve just told you how exhausted I am. I’ll do the work anyway. Don’t help me; it will ruin my martyrdom).

Yuck.

How am I going to fight against this anger when I don’t even realize what I’m doing at the time? This is where we get to what I’ve found to be the answer to any anger, no matter what the trigger is: selfishness, expectations, control, stress, and mirror of my own sin. I can know all my triggers, minimize their occurrences, and write about them. I can do things like get accountability and exercise to relieve stress, but if I don’t honestly go before God every day, asking the Holy Spirit to fill me up, I will continue to get angry.

That’s all. Rely on God to work in me and help the fruit of the Spirit grow in me: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22, 23). If I am full of this fruit, there will be no place for anger. It’s hard to be patient and angry at the same time.

I’ve found that when I do ask God for help, He really does help me. I find myself tucking the kids in with a good attitude instead of one of hurry and annoyance and am surprised to think back through the day and not find one time when I lost my temper with my kids.

As this new year starts, let’s make a resolution to take a minute or two to go before God every day (hopefully before we interact with those who normally make us angry) and ask Him to fill us so full of Him that we have no room for anything else!

Anger, Part Five: Stress

Why would I write about anger on Christmas Eve? Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, right? It’s a time for families to get together and look like those lovely people on holiday specials. We’ll all smile and hug and love each other beautifully because God loved us so much He gave the gift of His Son.

IMG_1518.cpWell, yes, of course God did love us that much, and the only way we love is because He loved us (I John 4:19), but I know that even those of us who have been changed by His love don’t always act like it during Christmastime. Most of us are completely stressed out by the end of December. Think about the accumulation of a month of making cute Christmas hors d’oevres and special treats for parties full of people we may or may not know, trying our best to find the perfect present for every single person in our family (including a finicky five year old daughter who one day loves the color gold, the next day can’t stand the idea of gold nail polish, and the day after adores it–but I’m not going to name any names), packing seemingly everything in the house and traveling (sometimes across the country with little restless ones) from one family to the next. Think about the extra work of wrapping, making adorable Christmas crafts with our kids, sending Christmas cards, making special dinners, and all the preparation for all I already mentioned. Have I made you feel even more stressed out just thinking about all of this? I’m not even going to get into the family and extended family dynamics that can add stress on top of all of it. Praise God that my in-laws do not add stress to Christmas–they, in fact, make it more restful–but I might be alone in this.

I find it interesting that with all of this, many of us have a picture of an idyllic Christmas, something out of Norman Rockwell. We might allow the picture of it to be a little quirky, like While You Were Sleeping (I can’t explain it–you’d have to see the movie), but quirkiness that makes you smile–not pull your hair out. Why are we surprised when our Christmas doesn’t look like our picture? I can remember quite a few Christmases in my lifetime that were filled with a lot of stress and yes, anger. Have you experienced any like that?

Here's a picture back from when I was pregnant with my first. I always think I can't have a happy Christmas without fudge!

Here’s a picture back from when I was pregnant with my first. I always think I can’t have a happy Christmas without fudge!

The fourth major trigger I’ve found for anger in my life is stress: when I’m too busy, running late, haven’t had enough sleep, or am under real or imagined pressure for how I or my children should behave. Pretty much all of these happen during almost the whole month of December.

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Sometimes even presents aren’t opened the way you might expect!

It seems wise, in light of what I know about how stress and unmet expectations trigger anger, to let go of my expectations of a perfect Christmas. A friend of mine recently said that she and her husband sit down together before Thanksgiving and Christmas and talk about how hard it’s going to be. They talk about what they’re going to do when different inevitable situations will arise. Their expectations of what it will be like are lowered to a more realistic picture, and they brace themselves for the stress, holding hands through it as a united front. What a great idea!

I also find that letting go of some things, being thankful, and putting everything in perspective can help. No, I didn’t get those special ornaments for my Jesse Tree made this year, but I did go through the daily verses, and my kids ARE learning the true meaning of Christmas (which, by the way, is not some vague notion of joy or giving presents to make people temporarily happy or believing in Santa Claus). Not all of my kids behaved the way they should have at the last Christmas dinner, but my family WAS able to have some meaningful conversation (the part that wasn’t drowned out by my youngest’s wails). I may not have made it on time (or even made it at all) to every party, but I DID get to celebrate Christ’s birth with some friends and family.

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I didn’t get to make felt ornaments this year for my Jesse Tree, but I did get to use some cute paper ones my talented friend drew!

Why do we do all of this every December, anyway? Why do we go to so much trouble? I can’t speak for those who don’t believe in Jesus as the Christ, but I can tell you that for me, it’s all to put on a major celebration for my Lord. If you know me, you know I like big birthday celebrations (here are examples of ones for Little E and Mr. C). How much more should we celebrate the birth of our Savior? I decorate for His party, I give gifts because He gave, I sing special songs for Him, and I spend time with family and friends so we can all celebrate together. However, none of it HAS to be completed, as long as I keep celebrating in my heart, and if all of it is completed but I’m not celebrating it in my heart, I haven’t celebrated at all. This reminds me of I Corinthians 13:1-3. If I can add something to it, I would say, if I get all my decorations up, give perfect presents to everybody, and make it to every special Christmas event, and have not love for my Savior, family, and friends, then it’s all for nothing.

I hope your Christmas will be one without unrealistic expectations, one in which stress is let go in the remembrance of why we do all we do for Christmas. Hopefully with that remembrance, our anger will melt away to show the not so perfect, but happy picture we imagined after all! Merry Christmas!