Category Archives: Encouragement

Travel Light!

We are a camping family, or I should probably confess and say a ‘glamping’ family since we have an RV. Every time we have orders to move, I look forward to shedding the old house and moving into the tiny camper because we are all crammed in there together. I love that we can’t take much with us, so the typical explosion of clutter occurs on a much smaller scale. I love living like a turtle; we pull up the jacks and move to the next place, put the jacks down and voila! we are home. There isn’t any dragging bags into a hotel and back out again. My family isn’t sleeping in someone else’s bed a la The Three Bears. We don’t need to rely on restaurants for food or make complicated meals. Cable television is eclipsed by caveman television (or campfire); even better, you can use your caveman television to cook dinner. Life is so much simpler and lighter. When we are camping, I feel a kind of freedom that I can’t achieve in any other way.

Today I read an article in Taylor University’s Alumni Magazine. It’s entitled, “Peace Be Still,” and it addresses how a woman named Rhonda was able to forgive the person who sexually abused her. She has been able to reach out and live freely because the ball and chain of anger and unforgiveness aren’t holding her back anymore. In the article, a woman approaches her and says, “I can tell that you have been genuinely healed from sexual abuse, but I don’t know how.” Rhonda recounts how before she was able to forgive, she “had to control her environment. She was angry, always on edge.” Before she was able to forgive, Rhonda would have nightmares about her experiences that tormented her. Now, she lives in peace and freedom.

When Rhonda said she had been able to forgive, the other woman was taken aback. “It’s been years of anger that I’ve been able to stay safe-not forgiveness,” she explained. Anger was how she protected herself from additional harm. Rhonda then asked, “Do you have repetitive nightmares about the situation?” And the woman answered, “I don’t sleep.” To which Rhode asked a most thought-provoking and incredible question: “Tell me, what has your anger protected you from?”

Reading this article had a profound impact on me. It hurt my heart! I’m the angry one with lots of defenses built in. I feel a need to control my environment so that I don’t feel like a victim all over again. Although I never experienced sexual abuse, there was a lot of ugly and crazy that I survived as a child. I want to cry because I pray that God will help me forgive, but I still feel the pain. I’m slowly improving (at least according to my kind husband), but I really want instant results!

As I was mulling this, I was reminded that Jesus admonished his disciples to travel light. Mark 6:8 “Take nothing for the journey except a staff, no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” There were probably several reasons for these instructions, but the importance was 1) traveling light allowed the disciples to move about unencumbered by things and 2) that God through His people would supply their needs.
I think Jesus’ instructions in traveling light, when considered in conjunction with the Fruits of the Spirit, can be applied emotionally. What emotions are light? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These allow a the heart and the soul to be free and unencumbered. More importantly, they allow the heart to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and there is room to allow others in. A heart full of anger, bitterness, impatience, and hatred is a heart that has the weight of a stone. There is no freedom in that; only bondage.

I want my heart to be light! I want it to be able to journey without strings holding it back or heavy luggage weighing it down. It needs to have wheels or wings so that I can do my Father’s bidding. After all, we’re all just visitors here. We aren’t home yet.

Rinse & Repeat (Surrendering Control Instead Of Losing It)

Do you ever feel as though you are cycled through life’s lessons over and over again?  Two months ago, my dishwasher broke and it was on this unending wash cycle.  I’d clean up the kitchen, load the dishes, put in the detergent, and press the start button.  Once I left the house and I returned six hours later only to find that the dishwasher was still running.  Its’ computer was on the fritz and it erroneously kept repeating itself.  In my life, I have to admit I’m broken like my dishwasher.  I read the Bible and pray and I know what God says.  But I keep reverting back to some coding or pattern that I incessantly repeat.  It often feels as though I am God’s remedial student, which I hope is okay since at least I’m still attending class, right?

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that there are two sides of me.  One is the super chill, relaxed mom.  This lady is thinks nothing of grabbing a newly run over snake to do a gross dissection with the neighborhood kids.  The other woman is a whole lot more neurotic.  You’ll be meeting her today in this essay.  She is an achieved stresser and holds masters degrees in ‘how to obsessively worry about nothing’ and ‘how to suffer from things that will never actually occur.’

At present, our family is awaiting moving orders.  While this used to seem like a whole lot of fun, the shine of relocating has started to wear just a bit thin after 14 moves.  Our children are older.  It seemed easier to pick up and move (I can’t believe I’m typing this!) with two little kids than with older school age children.  Two high schools in two years, what’s next?  Honestly, I’m so stressed that if I were a smoker I’d have lungs that would make the National Institutes of Health clamor for my lungs upon my demise.  I’m repetitively worrying about something over which I have absolutely no control!

This morning as I was praying, I learned a little something about myself.  My need for control stems from a deep desire for predictability.  The need for control has perversely developed a redundant desire to control my control.  That is to say, I develop internal emotional strategies to deal with change by creating routine and predictability.  Then, on the inside, I also create a whole set of ‘what if’ plans for when my routines fail me.  Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

I want to make an analogy here about what I’m doing to myself.  If you think about a turtle, consider that it has a hard shell (known as a carapace) that grows with it.  My carapace is control and the problem is that it does not grow with me.  It constrains me.  So all of the growth that should be occurring is meeting with resistance and is squishing up against the rigidity of a boundary that forces growth to atrophy.  Essentially, something I’ve built has become a limitation to me and it bothers me so deeply!  Certainly the Bible has a lot to say about self control, it is one of the fruits of the Spirit after all.  However, an aberrant sense of self control, or of control in general, conveys a lack of trust and rest in God’s ability to carry and care for us.  Surely this is not how God intends me to deal with all of the things that ‘life’ hands me.

And so, I approached the throne of Grace this morning confessing and trying to learn, all over again, how to surrender control to the God who created this vast universe, time, and space, and all that is in it.  David wrote a lot about trusting God and I suspect this is because he had to keep reminding himself, as do you and I, to look to the Lord.  Psalm 25 vs 1-4 are important for us to consider as we refocus where we place our trust:  “To you, Oh Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.”  Proverbs admonishes in 28:26 “He who trusts in himself is a fool but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”

As I examine my pathetic attempts to exert control over my life (the image of a sparrow in a hurricane comes to mind), I realize that I only have two choices in life.  All decisions lead to one or the other.  I can surrender control to the God who knew me in my mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5) and has a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11).  Give the God who counts my tears (Psalm 56:8) and the hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30) my full consent and submission to His control or I can lose control to other external forces.

I’m sure I’ll be repeating this lesson and I’ll have to revisit this blog link.  More importantly, I’ll be revisiting the Bible in perpetuity and reminding myself of an empty grave and the very level ground found at the foot of the cross.  I’ll also find camaraderie amongst my brothers and sisters in Christ who also need to rinse & repeat.