Thursday, February 2, 2012

Control

I have control issues.
I know this may be totally shocking to you ...
Or, rather, it doesn't surprise you at all.
The reality is, the more in control I want to be and the more in control I'm trying to feel, the more out of control everything seeems.
I could compare myself to Peter from the Bible. The man saw Jesus walking on the water and was so excited he jumped over the boat to meet Him. I don't know how far he got before he realized he was also walking on the water. The moment he took his eyes off Jesus, he started to drown. He cried out for Jesus and Jesus pulled him back up. That story always made me chuckle - I always thought, "Pete, seriously. You were walking on the water! Why not just keep your eyes on Jesus?"
As I've gained more life experience, I've realized that keeping my eyes on Jesus isn't always as simple as it sounds.
Well...maybe it is as simple as it sounds, but I am easily distracted.
Peter was distracted by the wind, I am distracted by just about everything around me.
In the last six months, God has awakened desires in my heart that I probably would have scoffed at a few years ago. I want to run a successful business - a few years ago I never would have imagined that I'd be in a position to make that happen. God has opened door after door for me, sometimes providing just what I need moments before I need it. And in those moments when He provides exactly as I need it, I realize I had taken my eyes off of Him way earlier; that I was drowning and He had reached out His hand to save me.
My most poignant example is when I needed to buy my airline ticket to Nashville late last year. I just didn't have the money for it. Mike and I decided, from the get-go, that I could go to Nashville if my business could pay for it. As the date for departure grew nearer and nearer, I began to get restless. I started looking around and freaking out. And whining. Lots and lots of whining.
"But Go-od...you provided the money for my stay. Why aren't you providing the money to get me there? ... But Go-od, if you want me to go, why aren't you providing right now? ... But Go-od...whiny whiny waaaaah!"
I had a photography event which I thought would provide more than ample money to get me to Nashville  and the day of the event I had cancellations and things didn't go right and I was so disappointed. In my heart I was grumbling and I tried, I really tried, to be thankful for the business I had received but it was so much easier to focus on what I didn't get. After the event I drove by the bank to deposit my money and I realized that I had .02 more than I needed for my ticket. Yes, my friends, .02.
When he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried out "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, "Oh man of little faith. Why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:30-31
This was my Peter moment. Well, more accurately...ONE of my Peter moments.
Peter jumped off that boat looking right at Jesus, trusting Jesus and allowing Jesus to have full control. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus it all went underwater...literally.
I'd been trusting Jesus. But along the way I got distracted by the details and quickly took my eyes off of what Jesus had been doing for me, and instead focused on the distractions and started drowning. When I saw that additional .02 in my bank account I could almost hear Jesus saying to me, "Oh woman of little faith. Why did you doubt?"
I promised I would never doubt again.
I promised I would never try to control the situation again.
I promised to always have faith.
I promised - extra promised - to always trust that the Lord would provide, when I needed it, and to not worry or get distracted by the seeming absence of what I thought I needed. I promised to believe that if God wanted me to go somewhere or do something, He would make it happen.

But I am writing this blog post, so I'm sure you gathered I didn't really stick with my promises...

Here I am. Back to questioning, wondering, struggling. Whining. Gosh, I'm good at whining.
In January, Mike and I took a huge leap of faith with our business. We went running toward what we feel God has for us. But a leap of faith requires so much ... faith. And letting go. It requires a lot of letting go.
What I want is to be in control of everything. I want to know what God is doing, why He is doing it, when it is going to end (or start), how is this going to affect me and my family and I really need to know right now. Right. Now.
I guess I struggle with patience too.
Yesterday when I read devotions to my kids, the verse at the end of the story was Psalm 37:7 "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him."
Then my sister came over and pulled up a Psalm she'd written. She titled it Redemption Psalms.
My sister struggles with control in her life too. It has manifested differently than it has in mine, but when I read what she'd written, it struck a chord with me. It took Psalm 37:7 to an entirely new level for me, and helped me to understand what truly resting in the Lord is.
With her permission, I'd like to share a slightly edited version here.

You asked me to change and I feel confused.
I point my finger, "What about them?"

You ask me to trust
I don't know how after what has been done to me.

You ask me to let go.
I make excuses.

You ask me to look at what I've done, 
Again, I point my finger elsewhere.

You point to me and say, "LET GO!"
"NO!"

You ask me again.
"Lord, I can't."
Even tighter I hold to what I know.

You lovingly pursue,
Yet I cling to my idol, the one thing I think will not hurt me.

You gently hold me in Your arms,
"Lord, don't touch me!"

You caress my face.
"Lord, if I let go and You hurt me, where will I be?"

"I am the Lord your God and you are my people."
Not if I have to let go!

You again ask, "Let go" and promise you will hold me.
"Don't ask me to give up my control. It's the one thing that won't hurt me."

This time You pierce my heart.
This hurts!
You didn't tell me it would be so uncomfortable!

"I didn't say it would be easy."
I am ashamed and hang my head low.

"I will never leave you nor forsake you,"
You whisper to me.

This time You ask and I find myself willingly relinquishing my control. 
The fear of the unknown sends panic in me.
I look to You and am comforted.
I know the healing has begun.

It's interesting to me that I don't think I can truly "rest in the Lord" until I've given Him full control. And, as my sister's Psalm says, it's painful and uncomfortable. Not obsessing and worrying is totally out of my comfort zone. For some reason, the more I worry, the more I whine and the more I doubt, the more I tell myself I can control. The reality is, the more I do those things, the more out of control everything gets. I spiral and I find myself calling out "Lord! Help me!" even though he's been right there the whole time! And not only that, but when I had my eyes on Him to begin with, I was fine. 
Did you read that?
When I had my eyes on Jesus everything was fine.
My guess is, there was still trouble going on around me. I'm sure there was wind and waves and I could have drowned at any moment ... but I didn't. I wasn't focused on what was going on around me, I was looking at Jesus and what He was doing. But, the moment I felt the ocean spray in my face, or noticed that the wind was tousling my hair, or saw that my feet were wet...
The moment I took my eyes off Jesus to put my hair back in place.
The moment I took my eyes off Jesus to clean the spray off my face.
The moment I took my eyes off Jesus to shake the water off my feet.
That moment is when I start to sink. And sinking is terrifying.

Here I am. At the end of my promises. Starting over. 
Jesus has held out His hand and lifted me up and I am faced with this choice again.
Do I fix my eyes on Jesus? Or do I fix my eyes on the details?
I may have to make this choice every day. Or every hour. Some days, I have to make this choice every minute. 
I hope I choose to relinquish control. I hope I choose to rest.
It is so much nicer to just keep my eyes on Jesus and let Him keep me afloat to begin with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Living Debt Free - The Final Debt Story





Please excuse the crappy quality of this video. We had to tape it as it came over the air through our computer...pretty backwoods but it worked! Also, pardon how totally dorky we sound. If you've read our entire debt story, you know how excited we were for this moment...but we still sound super cheese.



Mike and I have been debt free for awhile now. Over two years. The completion of our story is long overdue, but the truth of the matter is that our story is still being written. God's provision has overflowed in our lives but we still are a long way from being the financial stewards He wants us to be.

Being out of debt has been so good for us but I know it is only possible because we have refused to open new credit cards.

I thought I would make a list of all the things we've been able to do without our credit cards. I'd like to remind you that, until very recently, Mike was the only one who contributed to our family financially. Most of you know he's a police officer and while he makes a good wage, our income is below the median for our area. We bought our home when the market was starting to climb, and like the rest of the dimwits out there, refinanced multiple times so our mortgage payment is embarrassingly high for our little home. It's important to me that people don't read this list and think, "Oh, well you can do these things because Mike makes so much money." There's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have been put into our staying out of debt.

So, here's my list...
* Bought a truck.
* Bought another truck when the first truck caught on fire. (Another post for another day!)
* Took the kids to Montana for a few days.
* Took the kids to Silverwood.
* Took the kids to Canada to visit Mike's sister.
* Mike and I took a trip to Dallas to visit our dearest friends.
* Established an emergency fund. (*confession* This has been super difficult for us. Because we don't have a lot of excess income, and because we have had quite a few emergency's come up over the last two years, it is nowhere close to where we want it, but we continue to work on it.)
* Increased our tithing to 10% of Mike's income.
* Spent one week in Maui for our tenth anniversary.
* I started a photography business.
* We go out to dinner. Often. (Er...I just like it.)
* Mike got me a laptop for my business.
* Mike bought me a new camera for my business. And new lenses.
* Each year for my birthday Mike has taken me away to a nice hotel and given me a shopping spree.
* We remodeled our kitchen.
* In two days we're taking our kids to Disneyland. For a week.

These are just the things that come to mind right now. As I think longer I know I can come up with more. Since choosing to make the effort to get, and stay, out of debt, our lives have been blessed beyond measure.

We have had to be patient. We have continued to have to go without. Our home is still 1300 square feet. Our yard is still small. With four children and large families on both sides, Christmas is still a stretch. Our TV is old. Our computer is outdated. Our fireplace is still unfinished.
We don't get to do everything we want.

But...(and you knew the BUT was coming, didn't you?!)

While it is a continual process, we have learned to be content with what we have.

And what we have is truly more than we deserve.