Out of Control

I’m living out of control. Such good practice for me.

Usually, Christmas decorating happens on Black Friday. The decorations go up. The 15+ totes go back in the attic. Wam Bam done. Scheduled. Organized. Clean cut. Cross it off my list.

This year… I started decorating early (if you ask my husband this out-of-control in itself). I started on a day that I knew I couldn’t finish. We’re on day four of Christmas totes crowding the dining room. Only half of my mantel has lights on it.

And I’m ok! I’m happy even. I’m consciously enjoying the process. I’m sitting contentedly in the space between the start and the finish. It’s not a space I’m accustomed to occupying. It feels out of control and exhilarating.

This may not seem like a big deal. I’m sure lots of people take days to decorate. And it seems lately, people are choosing to decorate earlier. It’s a big deal for me because I get stuck in the rut of control, and organization, and habit. That rut is a dangerous place to camp out. I love my Black Friday schedule… the girls and I get up ridiculously early to shop, come home in the afternoon for a nap, get our tree, decorate, watch the Apple Cup. I look forward to this day every year. What happens when my college student decides she wants to go to the Apple Cup instead of watch it with me? Or my youngest can’t get the day off of work and I must shop without her? Or I get sick and need to stay in bed? Or the fishing is good and my husband ditches tree-cutting in exchange for salmon-catching? Or, or, or?? I want to be in a place that wrenches thrown into my plans don’t throw me off the rails. Maybe the key is learning to live out-of control!

How funny… I would never give my teenagers this advice. “Yes, kids… the secret to an enjoyable life is to be out of control.” Maybe I should though. Looking at my habits, I’m sure I’ve taught them, without words, the importance of being in control. And what happens when we are unable to control things? Stress, anxiety, disappointment, discontentment.

Like when a pandemic shuts the world down.

Or when your husband’s beautiful beast of a truck breaks down and your family now needs to figure out how to manage work schedules, mid-week obligations and appointments with one vehicle. (This really just happened. I don’t even know how I am getting home from work today!)

A very familiar verse is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

What people sometimes fail to realize is that Paul is not saying he could scale a mountain in record time or beat cancer, although Christ could absolutely help him do those things.

The two verses before the much-quoted line sets the stage, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content; I know how to be depraved, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

Paul quite possibly wrote this from prison. Paul’s life was rough to say the least. Paul convicts us… our circumstances should not dictate our joy or our level of contentment. With Jesus… we can learn to be content, regardless of our circumstances.

So maybe the key isn’t to be out of control. But instead to not grasp control so tightly and to be ok with where the stream of life leads. To learn contentment whether you are in control, or not.

After I journaled these thoughts, I walked my dog. It was a brisk morning that smelled of winter coming. I wore regular athletic shoes since the sky was clear and the path was dry. About a third of the way into our walk, Abby poo’d… WAY off the path, in wet grass. I trudged my way over there and almost instantly my feet were drenched in ice-cold water. This message that I just wrote about for 10 minutes was fresh in my mind. To be content, regardless of circumstances… even really cold, wet feet. Then to top it off… I stepped in poop!! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. It really ended up being a lovely walk, framed by the most spectacular and unique rainbow I’d ever seen. It could’ve been ruined if I focused on my feet and poop.

I’m consciously enjoying the process. I’m sitting contentedly in the space between the start and the finish. It’s not a space I’m accustomed to occupying. It feels out of control and exhilarating.

If I can learn to be OK with Christmas totes in the dining room for a week. If I can learn to be at peace with driving behind someone going 20 in a 25mph zone. If I can learn to appreciate the rainbow while walking in freezing cold feet and poop on my shoe. If I can learn to be grateful for the fifteen minutes my daughter spends with me, when I really wanted at least an hour. WOW. Life changing. What would my life look like if I didn’t let things get to me and was able to just be content? I don’t want my life to be a house of cards, destroyed by a brief unexpected breeze. I want to be one of those trees you see in the background during a hurricane. You know… the reporter is in full rain gear, drenched and barely able to stand in the wind. Behind him, you see the torrential downpour, the waves crashing violently… and the trees, bending deeply and being tormented by the storm, their branches flopping and flying in the gusts. In the days that follow… those trees may have lost some leaves, but there they stand. Yes. I want to be that tree. But I have to be willing to bend.

*So, I wrote this yesterday, but didn’t have time to post it until today. Prayers answered… Alexis and Ayden picked me up from work and hung out with me for a bit. Such a blessing. My husband figured out what is wrong with the truck. And my boss is letting me borrow a car for as long as I need it. Just WOW.