A note from Chris Adams: As a leader, how do you process the struggles you face at times related to direction, stress, relationships and other issues that crop up in ministry? Today, my friend Sheila West, women’s leader at Heritage Church in Lady Lake, Fla., shares her way of handling these challenges in a healthy and productive way.
By Shelia West
Like it or not, we all struggle with our emotions. The days when they threaten to overwhelm us can make it unbearable to keep pushing through ministry challenges.
Sadly, we don’t pay much attention to our emotions except when they force us to. When we get the flu, we do what’s necessary to get better. But when our emotions are suffering, we often neglect them.
Dealing with emotions is a large and complicated issue. I want to focus on one simple discipline that can help us maintain emotional equilibrium: journaling.
I’ve kept a journal for many years. Keeping a record of my personal, professional and ministry odyssey has been an important tool in my growth and development. It has inspired me by revealing my personal progress. It has moved me to gratitude as I’ve reflected on the blessings of my life. It has helped me address inner turmoil and work through conflicts. It has given me a place to deal with frustrations and disappointments when I felt I could not share them with others.
Sounds like I write epistles, doesn’t it? No way! Journaling is my debriefing time. I use it as a relaxing bite-sized piece of my day in which I recap what is happening in and around me. It’s a place where I can reflect in private — kind of like stopping at a red light in the middle of rush-hour traffic. I can relax, take a deep breath, and gather my thoughts.
I make a point of journaling as positively as I can. Everything I can write down in a positive mode, without compromising the facts, I do. This has disciplined me to see the positive when I start looking at the negative.
Another benefit I’ve discovered is that my journal helps keep me honest with myself. It’s easier to color the truth when I’m talking or just thinking to myself. Writing something down forces me to tell it like it is.
To help you take care of your emotional life, make a commitment to try journaling if you’re not already doing it. You’ll find it’s like an emotional massage. And don’t panic if you miss a few days now and then. In journaling, you don’t have to answer to anyone.
Here’s my 1-2-3 of journaling:
1. Debrief yourself in 20 to 30 lines. (Feel free to write more or less if you want to; there’s no right or wrong way.) I break my thoughts into “me,” my relationships, and ministry happenings.
2. Write a few lines about how you think God is guiding you or where you seem to be on your spiritual pilgrimage during devotional reflections.
3. Detail the sources of your stress when it builds up and process what you can do about them. Use this debriefing to enter into a conversation with the Father. And overall, enjoy your journaling as a time of re-creation.
Sheila West has been in women’s ministry for more than 25 years, serving as director of women’s ministry for more than 20 years in the local church. She’s currently on staff at Heritage Community Church, Fruitland Park, Fla., as director of spiritual growth and ministry mobilization and women’s ministry coordinator. Sheila is the founder of Real Living Ministries, a speaking, teaching, and leadership development ministry to women. The author of Beyond Chaos, Sheila is a contributor to Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She and her husband, John, are the parents of two and proud grandparents of seven. Follow her on Twitter @SheilaWestSez.