How I Feel is Not Who I Am

Earlier this year, I read a blog post by someone who was packing up and moving after 38 years in the same house. The writer, Linda Stoll, wrote about depersonalizing her beloved home to prepare it for listing, and about all the memories she would leave behind when she relocates to a new address in a different state.

lone tree

In the comments section, I told her that the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere (as an adult) has been five years, so I could only imagine how hard it would be to do all that work after nearly four decades in the same place.

Her response stopped me in my tracks and triggered an internal dialogue that continued for weeks.

“Five years, huh?” she wrote. “Wow, Lois, you are courageous. And maybe a bit of an adventurer like (another commenter) was just talking about!”

Out of all the words in the English language, I have never used “courageous” or “adventurer” to describe myself. Not one time.

Deep down inside, I crave security, adjust slowly to change and only take risks with great reluctance. I hadn’t realized it before, but these personal struggles and feelings strongly influenced the kind of person I thought I was. Perhaps that’s why terms like “boring,” “safe” and “structured” often come to mind when I think of myself, rather than other, more exciting adjectives.

Linda’s kind words made me recognize that just because I don’t feel courageous doesn’t mean I’m not courageous, and just because I would never think of myself as an adventurer doesn’t mean I’m not adventurous.

As I shared here, Randy and I have moved eight times in 21 years of marriage, most recently into a foreclosed house that basically needed a top-to-bottom overhaul (which Randy has done almost entirely by himself). This is just the path our residential life has taken, so I never thought of it as very adventurous.

But maybe it has been, just a little.

We’ve also been to China twice to adopt our lovely daughters. Becoming parents for the first time—in a foreign country far away from our own moms and mentors—was what it took to grow our family, so it doesn’t register very high on the courageous scale for us.

But again, maybe it was, just a little.

Thanks to Linda’s affirming words, here’s what I’m discovering:

In real life—the kind that’s lived out loud and in person—actions speak louder than emotions. When it comes to who I am, what I do is far more telling than how I feel.

And this is not just true for me, either.

Everywhere I look, I see people who show up every day, who do what’s right even when they don’t feel like it, who take hard steps for the good of someone else. Based on how they feel at any given moment—or in any given season of life—they would never think of themselves as people of great faith, kindness, patience or generosity.

But their actions speak otherwise. Quite loudly, in fact.

They’re just doing the next thing, taking what comes and trying to make the best of it, attempting to honor God with whatever little or much they have. They don’t realize that, from the outside looking in, they are living, breathing examples of faith in action, love in action, strength in action.

If you know people like this, maybe you should tell them what you see. Take it from me—you just never know the difference an affirming observation might make in someone else’s life.

And remember: Though it’s sometimes tough to believe, our feelings don’t dictate who we are, nor are they the final arbiter of truth about us.

Lois Flowers

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Grace & Truth, Suzie Eller at Live Free Thursday, Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.

35 Responses to How I Feel is Not Who I Am

  1. I love so many things about this! I love that Linda shared you on her blog, so I could come read your story. I love that she has such an encouraging heart. I love how you embraced her comments to you about courage and adventure and used them to filter your experiences. You are so right, actions speak louder than our feelings. I think this is a reminder I can use, as sometimes I tend to focus on what I’m not doing, or how I’m feeling, rather than on what I am doing.

    I too have moved lots of times in our 31 years of marriage. I have a wall hanging that has 18 streets listed – all of them places I’ve lived. Only two of those places made it to 5 years. I’m pretty sure we have at least one more move in our future. I’ve learned that the memories always live in my heart and I just keep adding to the story.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Well, Teresa, you have just made my day with this lovely comment! I agree 100 percent about Linda’s encouraging heart, and it’s wonderful to see that she has such encouraging blog readers too. Eighteen streets is a lot of places to live … wow! But you know what? The last time we moved, I would have insisted that this would be the last one ever, but now I’m not so adament. It’s not that I WANT to move, I’m just not holding on so tightly to this place anymore. After my daughters are grown, who knows? 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

  2. June says:

    I love that Linda introduced us! She has the gift of encouragement, for sure! My mother’s name is Lois, a lovely, yet uncommon name 🙂 Your post is inspiring and encouraging! Feelings are fickle and sometimes dangerous things! I’m so thankful God puts people like Linda (and you!) in our lives to speak truth to our hearts. And I’m thankful for His word which keeps us on the right path. Have a blessed week, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Hi June! I love that dear Linda introduced us too. Thank you for your kind comments about my name. I’ve always thought of it as kind of an “old-aunt” name, so it’s it’s nice to hear someone use the word “lovely” to describe it! I share your thoughts about thankfulness … you have encouraged my heart today!

  3. Brenda says:

    I understand, Lois. I don’t even know how many times we’ve moved in our 23 years of marriage. I never thought it “courageous” either, but as I get older, I look back and think…”how did we ever manage to do that?” We’ve been in the same place now for five years, and it’s comforting. 🙂 Good insights about speaking up and affirming others…making a difference. 🙂 ((blessings))

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It sounds like our journeys are similar, Brenda. I can look back at several specific seasons and wonder exactly the same thing: “How did we ever do that?” (One period of time, in particular, makes me tired even to think about now!) Aren’t you glad God is faithful to provide the right amount of grace, just when we need it?

  4. Amen Lois! Well said. I have always struggled seeing who I am because of my feelings. I have been told by employers in the past that I am too hard on myself or self critical. I am learning to remember that in spite of my feelings, I am still a child of the “Most High” and for that I am beyond thankful. My prayer is that I will see myself as He sees me with all humility so that He is glorified. Thank you for sharing such a thought provoking and inspiring post!

  5. Cathy says:

    Loved reading your post. I’ve had a few times like that as well, when someone online really encouraged me. Glad I stopped by! : )

  6. I love this, Lois! So true…our feelings are not–and cannot be–who we are. Your post immediately brought to mind a favorite quote from Amy Carmichael: “our feelings do not affect God’s facts.” Which is, of course, not to say God is not moved by what we feel…He is a God of passionate compassion. But what we feel does not determine or change Who He is or what He says is true. Thank goodness! 🙂 Blessings on your day…stopping by from Grace & Truth.

  7. Suzie Eller says:

    Absolutely courageous! And encouraging. I’m so glad you joined me today on #livefreeThursday. <3

  8. I love this, Lois! From my view, you certainly appear to be more adventurous and courageous than many! Blessings as you continue to venture on in Christ!! #livefreeThursday

  9. Michelle says:

    “What I do is far more telling than how I feel.” How very true. Thank you for sharing. #livefreeThursday

  10. Lois,
    You are courageous and this is so true: “When it comes to who I am, what I do is far more telling than how I feel.” I often forget this truth, so Thank you for reminding me 🙂

  11. Becky says:

    So much great insight here! We often think of ourselves very differently than the world sees us. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes, well…it’s eye opening. Your words encourage me to look inside myself as well as others!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Eye-opening … yes! It’s so hard to see ourselves objectively, so when someone else notices our strengths and talents and takes the time to tell us, it’s such a gift! Thank you for your kind words, Becky. 🙂

  12. Trudy says:

    I second Linda’s observation, Lois. Just from reading this post, I believe you definitely are courageous. 🙂 Thank you for encouraging me today. I will keep showing up and taking the next step. And try to believe that in itself is courageous even though it doesn’t feel like it. Your title “Why Our Feelings Don’t Define Us” drew me in from Holley’s. I’m glad I stopped by.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Aw, thanks, Trudy … you are so kind! I’m so glad the title pulled you in … it’s a message I need to hear quite frequently. Blessings to you as you keep taking the next step!

  13. Visiting you from #TellHisStory where we are neighbors today. Loved your post here. It especially resonated with me as we moved last year after 20+ years in the same house. Blessings.

  14. Christi Gee says:

    Oh, sweet friend! I was just reading this post in my inbox when I got notified about your comment on my post 🙂

    I see a trend here 🙂 And if you ask me, you are BRAVE and adventurous and all those things you don’t quite feel 🙂 Showing up. Yep, that’s the one I keep focusing on too!


  15. Oh Lois, thanks for this words of encouragement this morning: “They don’t realize that, from the outside looking in, they are living, breathing examples of faith in action, love in action, strength in action.” Thanks also for the reminder to look for brave faith in others and speak it out to encourage them.

    I may be a bit like you, Lois, in that I never think of myself as brave at all, but I hear people mention in . Maybe because I lived in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Turkey. I guess church planting in the Middle East is not for the faint of heart, but I’m really a regular “nothing interesting about me” sort of person!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Betsy, I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? People who thrive in foreign cultures, especially as missionaries, are the epitome of adventurous to me! I’m guessing most interesting people (such as yourself) don’t think of themselves as interesting, which makes them all the more endearing! Blessings to you today!

  16. Linda Stoll says:

    Thanks for sharing our little conversation way back in May, Lois. I’m touched that it would have made a difference for you.

    And your final words are a keen reminder to us all –>’our feelings don’t dictate who we are, nor are they the final arbiter of truth about us.’

    We’re defined by our faith, not our feelings, our stuff, our screw-ups, our accomplishments. What a wonderful grace!

    Hugs …

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