Saturday, February 18, 2012

Praise to the Provider (hint: it's not me)

Out of control.
I think that is the scariest phrase I am grappling with lately.

It has recently become clear to me that I have been trying to get control of everything.
When I can't control something, I get crabby and snippy and obsessive.
I make lists.
I can't sleep because I'm thinking of 10,000 things that I need to get done, that I need to tell person X, person Y, and person Z.
I make myself ill.
My stuttering problem has resurfaced. Usually it is so minor, compared to childhood, and only I notice it. But since the New Year started, the awful stammer that once plagued me so horribly has returned with a vengeance.
My temper is short.
My angry words are quick.
My eyes become teary at any moment.
I'm easily triggered by past difficult events.
I forget everything.

The train wreck started with losing my keys. It was the week I was horribly sick with stomach issues and went to two emergency doctor appointments, missed two days of work and went to the ER late one Thursday night. That weekend, while recovering, I realized I had lost my entire keychain; many important keys were on that ring.

The next thing to happen was my car accident, February 10th. I drove home from work on the sunny, cold afternoon (snowing a little) and, while driving down the rural highway, I slid on a patch of ice. My car spun and slid into the ditch and flipped on the left side. The car was totaled; I was spared.

That woke me up. I knew that God was telling me something. I knew that God was showing me something, pushing my face into something that I just couldn't grasp:

I couldn't grasp the concept that I had this insatiable need to grasp control.

Couldn't I notice the obsessive list-making I did every single day? I would make lists of things I wanted to get done, no matter if I knew I would get them done or not. Just seeing it written out on a piece of paper made me able to breathe again. The obsessive list-making was a comfort. Didn't I see that it was hurting me?

I hurry, hurry, hurried through the mornings, rushing the kids through the routine because I was afraid of being late for work - another out of control feeling. What had I written about hurrying? Didn't I remember that hurrying makes us hurt?

So the accident happened. I realized I had to wake up to what really mattered. I had to see how little I needed to really be happy. I needed my God, my family, my loved ones. I couldn't control everything in my life. Bad things happen to good people. Car accidents happen on the sunniest of days. Ice can appear on the driest of roads. Lives are saved in instances where they should've died.

But who dictates the should've? I've said that a lot while describing my accident: "Oh, I should've died in that accident; it was that bad. The car flipped on its side and was totaled. I shouldn't be alive."

Really? Am I the one who decides that? Is there a person somewhere with a list of who gets to live and who should die? Who should prosper and who should suffer? Do I actually think that I would be here if I wasn't supposed to be?

Do I actually think my surviving that accident is an accident, itself?

I'm coming to this realization as I write this, folks. It's a spontaneous learning experience. I do not call those shots. You don't, either. None of us do. You can see where I'm going with this...

The Almighty Father has the control. The "God of Parting Waters....God of Falling Bread" is in control. God is the one who calls the Shoulds, the Cans and the Great Is.

And the Great Is in my life is the fact that I am alive and I now see that God wanted that and that is why it is.

I also think God wants to use that experience as a wake-up call.

Well, maybe I need a bigger alarm clock...

In the days following the accident, Husband and I found out various horrible financial facts. A dozen things came down on us at once and the fact is is that we have to dish out a heck of a lot of money in the next few months and leading up to tax time.

After the weekend "high," coming off of the accident where I felt such gratitude and joy at my life being spared, feeling my faith renewed (or so I thought), I was hit in the face with these sudden debts that threatened our "secure" existence.

Husband became very discouraged at our circumstances and I joined him in the sorrow festival. Oh Lord, we cried together, why are you doing this? Haven't we been good? Don't you love us?

All right, maybe we didn't ask those exact questions, but I know that's what our deepest heart-parts echoed.

But the first work day after the accident - that Monday - I returned to my obsessive list-making. The new financial burdens made me write out various budgets in the five or ten free minute intervals I had during the work day. My lists started getting more detailed and refined. What was once to-do things became to-say things. I felt if I didn't write it down on paper, I would forget everything. It became so severe that I had anxiety attacks over not having that "magic notebook" containing those lists. And when we figured out one financial burden, another one kept popping its ugly head up and landing in our laps.

Really, Lord? I must have cried as I hunched over my tiny notebook, scribbling away. All these financial burdens, the fact of needing a new vehicle, all the insurance hoops, plus all the stress that comes with having three traumatized stepchildren going through a very difficult adaptation to living in a more stable home. Plus trying to rehome a fearful dog whom we love and adore, but know needs to be in a different home in order to thrive.

It's too much, I sobbed into my pillow one recent night. My body clenched, my fists clenched, my toes curled.

One morning last week, I sat in a Wendy's and I decided to journal about all the struggle I felt. I felt compelled to look up what Jesus said about worry in the book of Matthew:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
    “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew: 6:25-34 NIV).

I wrote the following in my prayer journal:

"Do we add a single hour to our life by worrying? No, we take AWAY hours of our lives by worrying. Hurry makes us hurt, says Ann Voskamp. Hurry makes haste which makes waste. I waste hours of my life by worrying. How can I doubt God's provisions for me? My LIFE was spared last Friday afternoon! 
Lisa, how much more important are YOU than an automobile! 
God saved ME - He will surely provide me with reliable transportation to and from the work He has appointed me to do. 
I feel a shift since pondering those Matthew verses. I was feeling very defeated with the money and now with the car and all the items I've lost over the past weeks...and doing all this, I know God is revealing to me my insistent, sinful need to CONTROL everything and everyone. 
Lord, I'm stopping the controlling. You are the One in control. I bow to Your will. 
I turned a corner while writing this, while reading what Jesus said about worry. Yes, I've read all those verses before, but they have new meaning now. 
May I never doubt. May I never forget the transformational power of God's Word."

That afternoon, things turned around. I was put in a difficult position at work and I intentionally let go of the need to control it and I went into it happily, relying on God to assist with the difficult parts. And I got through it with flying colors.

A few items I had lost were found the following afternoon. Not my coveted keychain with very important keys, but rather a phone battery I desperately needed as well as a rosary a friend gave me to give to a very special person (a story I have yet to tell on this blog - I will, promise! The draft is in the works).

As soon as I laid the gauntlet down; as soon as I unclenched my hands and held them out empty, the struggle lessened.

Did all our financial burdens disappear? Absolutely not. We are still in serious trouble.

BUT amazing blessings happened this past Friday, the week anniversary of the accident:

The rental car company I was dealing with had exceptional customer service and I had joyful interactions with the people there, ran into a woman who also lived in my small town and we found out we both have girls in 7th grade. We had a great talk. I also discovered through friendly conversation that she was trading in the very type of car that Husband and I were looking to purchase with the insurance money. I received good advice from her. The young Vietnamese man who drove me to my auto body shop to pick up the FREE rental car the owner was giving me (because he knew me and had worked with me a lot before - quite the blessing, yes?) was exceptionally polite and kind and we shared wonderful conversation, talking about our families, his coming to the United States not long ago, my writing, how I've come to the conclusion that struggle can be beautiful...we delved into deep topics for a 25 minute car ride in rush hour. I felt blessed to have such a soulful exchange and when I arrived at the auto body shop, I felt like I was bidding a friend goodbye. The auto body shop owner, as I said, gave me a free rental until I got my new car. I was overcome with astonishment at the blessings of that day. None of the icky things disappeared, but I opened my eyes, my heart, and my hands and I saw so much beauty and goodness.

I saw God is in control and He should be. I have no business trying to control everything around me.

I'm not saying I will simply coast through life making no decisions; I am saying that I no longer rely on my own understanding.
I do not have the power I thought I had. I'm not saying I am powerless, but I know now that God is the most powerful. He is the only provider I can count on.

"And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others" (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT).  

Lord, it seems I must give my life to You over and over for I have not learned the lessons I need to learn. They come to me and then they leave. Realizations settle in, but I return to my prideful and ego-driven ways. I know the Truth of You and then I rest and believe the world's falsities  I am human, Father, and I know that You know that and love me despite and because. You knew I would get it wrong so often; Jesus knew we would get it wrong so often - that is why He died on the Cross.

"For God so loved your broken heart 
He sent His Son to where you are 
and He died to give a reason for the world.
So lift your sorrows to the One
Whose plan for you has just begun...

Maybe the reason for the pain  
Is so we would pray for strength 
And maybe the reason for the strength 
Is so that we would not lose hope 
And maybe the reason for all hope 
Is so that we could face the world  
And the reason for the world 
Is to make us long for home "

("The Reason for the World" by Matthew West)

This long blog entry can be summed up in the following verse from 2 Corinthians 1:3: 

"All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."(NLT)

That is what I want this winding, talkative blog entry to be to you: an account of how God comforts me in my trouble so that I can comfort others, so I can spread my story, these Dove Chronicles. Read the last line of that verse: when you are troubled, I want to give you the same comfort God has given me. Because this is real. I am a real person, living a real life, having real problems, and coming face to face with my own humanity and weaknesses -- yet in my belief in the Lord, I am made whole. 

Not sure about how you fit into this concept? 
Just look to His Word:

"May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God" (Ephesians 3:19 NLT). 

What else can I possibly add to that?

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