I had the privilege of sharing at a women’s retreat this last weekend. There were a number of people who really wanted to hear what I shared and couldn’t make it, so I thought I’d share it here.
I thought I’d start by telling you a little about myself. I am married to Andrew; we’ve been married 21 years already! We have 10 kids. Yes, 10. Yes, they are all ours! They range from 18 to 1, six boys and four girls. When I was asked to speak for this women’s retreat I was excited, but also a little overwhelmed, especially when I heard the other two speakers were Pastor Jen and Pastor Julia!
But God impressed upon me this truth through a good friend: we all have a story to tell, we all have a testimony to God’s goodness and any one of us can tell our story to glorify Him. So, that’s what I’m going to do, try to tell my story for His glory.
First, I have a confession to make to you all. I am a control freak. I am. Truly. So often, people tell me how patient I am and how calm I always seem. People tell me I seem like I can let anything slide off my back and I don’t get riled up about much. Ha!! It’s all a lie! I think I’ve learned to hide my control issues well! Often inside, I’m struggling with what’s going on around me, wishing I could change it, control it, mold it to my will. And, unfortunately, sometimes it bubbles out in ugly ways.
Just to give you some insight, when Andrew and I were married 21 years ago, I used to get mad at him for certain things. I look back now and realize it was all a control thing! I’d get upset at him for…wait for it… folding towels the wrong way. I’m not even kidding! Some of you are probably thinking, I’m sorry what? Why wouldn’t you just be thankful that HE EVEN folded the towels at all!!! But it’s true. Not my proudest moments.
I used to get upset with him for cleaning the bathroom the wrong way. Not. Even. Joking. How stupid is that! HELLO?! He was cleaning bathrooms and instead of being thankful I was upset he didn’t do it just like me. Seriously, my control freakishness was way out of control!!
I would get upset with my kids for acting out in public. Oh, I’d get so mad at them. When I would really stop to think about why, which wasn’t until years later, I’d realize it was because they seemed out from under my control. And I thought it reflected poorly on me as a mom so I’d get mad to try to get them to behave the way I wanted.
The list goes on. I know I still want too much control over things now too. Maybe I’ve gotten better in some areas. Like if someone folds towels, hello…I’m just happy we actually have clean towels. At this point they could be shoved in the cabinet in a pile and I’d just be thankful I had a towel to dry off with.
But there are other things I am realizing I still want control of. This came out very starkly this last spring.
So, first here’s my family. I thought it’d be best to show you a photo. Here are all our kids! Most of this story is about what God taught me through a very difficult time with Isaiah, one of our oldest.
The Lord has been teaching me through these kids that I really want control of everything around me and that I can’t have it, nor should I have it!
This last April, one of the scariest things I think can happen to a parent happened to us. Isaiah, very tearfully, revealed to me that he thought frequently about killing himself. We’d had a lot of ups and downs with this kid for years, but never had I thought it was really that severe. All the disobedience, all the fights, all the sneaking and lying, was all really a cry for help that we didn’t recognize.
When he told me how he was truly feeling, I felt overwhelmed with grief and sadness. It was like a crushing weight and I had no idea what to do. I really don’t like that feeling of having no idea what to do. I felt so out of control. What he told me was scary, but that feeling of losing control was also scary.
Of course, the morning he told me this, Andrew wasn’t home, and it came out in an argument between he and I. Isaiah was actually supposed to go with Andrew that morning and wouldn’t get out of bed. Because he didn’t get up and go with Dad and because we argued, his true state of mind was revealed. I thank God for those little things that I couldn’t have orchestrated.
I think I sat around stunned for a while, wondering what in the world we needed to do. Once Andrew got home, we ended up having him admitted in Rochester for a week for evaluation and the beginning of therapy. That was such a hard week. I spent a lot of time crying and praying and driving back and forth from home to Rochester to visit Isaiah. I spent a lot of time asking God, why. Asking Him, what did we as parents do wrong? Questioning where He was in all of it? Asking God, what am I supposed to do with all this? Wondering how I could keep it all under control with nine other kids to take care of, plus the house, and home schooling, and trying to make sure Isaiah was alright.
I also, so badly wanted to control Isaiah’s emotions and thoughts. If you would only think this, if you would only think that…
I think it’s in those moments when everything seems out of control that we have a choice to make. We can look for what an old pastor of mine used to call “God sightings”, or we can choose to let it all overwhelm and control us. I am not perfect at this and I still try all too often to control the situation on my own, but this time I did see God sightings.
During that week, God was so good to remind me He was there with us every step of the way. He spoke to me in the worship music in the hours I spent in the car. He spoke to me through other Christians. In fact, five different people at different times spoke the same thing to Andrew and I: “God is going to use this in Isaiah’s life for His glory. Isaiah is going to have such a powerful testimony to tell and will help other young people through the same issues.” FIVE PEOPLE! Five people who had no idea anyone else had spoken those words to us. If that’s not a God sighting, I don’t know what is!
He spoke to me through Scripture too. I clung to His Word that week, especially reading the Psalms. Let me tell you, when you feel like life is out of control, open the Psalms and you’ll get a good dose of who is really in control!
I want to share one Psalm that I kept reading and rereading. It’s Psalm 91.
dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he
will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you
say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
God just kept impressing on me that He was in control. Only He could save and make a person victorious. The NLT version says in verse 3: “He will rescue you from every trap.” Those words are so comforting when you have to hand your son over to medical professionals and just hope he’ll be okay. I prayed these verses over Isaiah because, truly, all I could do was pray.
But lately, as I’ve been rereading this Psalm, I’ve been realizing how it speaks to my need for control. Verse 2 starts off right away with trusting God. “2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
And then if we trust, the rest of the Psalm speaks of His protection and love and care for us. And what is trust, if not giving over control?
I’m not great at giving over control. Just this last week as I was trying to prepare this message, Satan was heavily attacking. I actually didn’t even finish writing it until Thursday morning. My kids were crabby and arguing, there were some harsh words spoken to me, there was trouble for one of my kids with a friend, my van broke down, my kids were starting to get sick, the baby was extra cranky, and on and on it goes. But I realized I was trying to control it all and that Satan was winning. So, instead of giving him a victory, I called a friend and said, “I need you to pray against Satan. I cannot get this message written.” Guess what? I got off the phone with her and started typing! Not because I took control, but because I let God have control.
After I talked with her, I wrote out a list of things I can control. It’s not much but it’s important. I can control how much time I spend in God’s Word and prayer. I can control my attitude, behavior, and emotions. I can control my response toward others and difficult situations. And that’s about it. I have a choice to make with the rest. I can try to control it all, which never ends up working well, or I can realize it’s not mine to control in the first place and lay it before the throne of the One who knows best and can do a way better job than me.
This, for me, has been one of the hardest lessons and I’m still learning it. Almost everyday I see something else I’m trying to control or something I’ve laid before the King and then picked up again. Oh, I’m carrying that burden again? When did I pick that up again? And why? Do I really think I can do it better? So, I’m not coming to you as an expert, just as a fellow pilgrim trying to figure this all out.
Here’s just a silly reminder of how little I’m in control of. We took these family pictures this summer and half way through it just started raining and raining. Instead of getting upset that my plans were ruined I decided to just have fun with it. So our photographer held an umbrella over her camera while we got drenched. And guess what? They are my absolute favorite photos.
This last Sunday as we were worshipping in church, I was convicted during a certain song that I had picked up the burden of trying to control Isaiah’s emotions and thoughts again. So, one more time, I had to lay him before God’s throne. I asked Steph if we could sing that song to end, so we can all have that reminder that He hasn’t failed us yet, and won’t.