Finding Peace

Overpacking

Have I mentioned that I’m a planner?  Yes, I want to know where I’m going, what I’m doing, and how I’m going to get there waaaaaaaay in advance of any and every event.  I also like to have a contingency plan for my plans.  If plan A doesn’t work out, then I can easily and confidently resort to B, C, or D.  Options are good.  I like them.

This compulsive need to plan ahead for all contingencies is evidenced by the gargantuan size of my suitcase when we travel.  I must have several options for each day.  What if it rains?  What if I don’t feel like wearing athletic shoes?  What if an unexpected blizzard pops up right smack in the middle of July? What if we meet European royalty and get invited to a costume ball while hiking at the Grand Canyon?

I’m totally kidding about that last option, but you get the picture.  I need choices and alternatives.  Picture an enormous, hard-shell suitcase large enough for an entire wardrobe, with an interior compression system and removable laundry bag – and that’s just what I take for a weekend away.  😉

But all that luggage can really be a pain to deal with.  There’s the loading and unloading of it from the vehicle and the wheeling/carrying of it into hotels/lodging.  If I’m flying, there’s the potential for extra charges if it weighs more than 50lbs.  There’s the hauling of it up onto and down from the luggage racks on various parking and rental-car shuttles.  If I’m not careful, all the planning for options can really weigh me down on a trip that is meant to be fun and relaxing.

Winston Churchill once said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”  This statement has been my unintentional motto for most of my life.  I combat the bothersome tendency toward worry with precise planning.  I manage anxiety about the unknown in knowing what my options are.

As the years pass and I grow closer to the Lord, I pray more and plan less, but there are still some situations in life where I like to know my plan in advance.  When people ask me questions, I like to have answers.

I’ve recently hit a situation that is the proverbial wall in my compulsive need to have a plan.  This isn’t some wimpy sheet-rock wall through which you can punch your fist or swing a bat.  Instead, it’s the equivalent of a 12” block wall, reinforced with steel rebar, poured solid with concrete and faced with brick.  If you know anything about construction, you know that this wall is NOT going anywhere.

Earlier this week I was sharing with a wise friend all the nuances of my current circumstances.   She listened raptly, and after I was finished, she said, “Jennifer, it sounds like you are on The Potter’s wheel.”

I quickly followed up her statement with a nod of my head and a witty quip about it being someone else’s time to take a go round on it, but later that day I took time to really ponder her words.

A quick word search on BibleGateway.com for “potter” and “clay” yields several verses, but I felt these two from Isaiah 64:8 and Isaiah 45:9 really jumped out to me:

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.

Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it,
saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’

I was struck with a mental picture of me, a clay figurine atop a spinning potter’s wheel, frantically trying to keep hold of my gargantuan, overweight pieces of luggage.  My Potter was gently and lovingly trying to mold me and make me into something useful and beautiful, yet I was holding on to all these oversized plans and options.  As the wheel turned, objects were escaping from my suitcases and flying away into the oblivion.

My grasping struggle atop the potter’s wheel was creating this unnecessary friction and discomfort for me while delaying the masterpiece My Potter was trying to create.

If I would let go of my carefully packed, yet burdensome luggage and surrender to The Potter’s expertise, the extra friction would cease and peace would come flooding back.

What insight this is.  What freedom this brings – this letting go of every single thing.  Arms up high as I surrender to the loving hands of The Potter.

Father God, I lift up my circumstances to you, as they are beyond my control at this time.  I let go of my plans and options.  I will defer to your expertise, your ways, and your purposes.  I will travel light.

Trusting God

Letting Go

It was an earnest moment of decision for my preschool-aged daughter.  You could see the deliberation on her sweet little face as she tightly gripped the Andes Mints, one in each hand.

If you will give ONE of your chocolates to Pa, I will give you another one.

I knew this might be a struggle for her and was watching with anticipation to see what decision she would make.

She loves chocolate candy so much, and this particular kind was only available to her once per week when we would meet my dad (her grandad) for lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.

I could see she was internally wrestling with the process of physically letting go of what was in her hand.  Did she believe me?  Would she trust me?

I repeated it again:  If you will give one to Pa, I will give you another one to replace the one that you give to him.

It was a promise.  But it required her action to activate it.  You see, she had to let go of the piece of chocolate in one of her hands, before I could give her another one.

This was a practical request.  There was no way her little hands could hold 3 pieces of candy, navigate a pass off, open the wrappers and avoid dropping one onto the floor.  With the crowd of people in front of the cashier’s desk, the candy could easily be stepped on and smashed.

After a few more seconds of consideration, she handed a piece to my dad, saying, “Here, Pa, this is for you.” I smiled, knowing that this had been an important step for her.

Before the smile faded from my face, I felt the Holy Spirit impress a feeling of even greater significance upon my heart.  I knew I needed to remember this exchange, and I wrote it down in my journal, trusting the Lord would eventually show me.

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A few weeks passed, and I had just learned of yet another major change coming my way.  The grief, anxiety and sorrow welled up in me anew.

Over the last 18 months, almost all the things in which I had found purpose, comfort and stability (with the exception of my husband and children) had been ended, altered, or shifted in some way.  A career.  A ministry role.  A few friendships.  Educational plans for my youngest daughter.  And on and on.

Honestly, I was so sick of change and felt like I really couldn’t take any more.  I was just done.  Over it.  Finished.  Seriously kaput.

Lord, seriously?  I was just getting into the groove.  I thought we had a plan.  Lord, what ARE you doing in this situation?   What does this mean for me?  I hate this.  Really, I hate this.  Can’t you just keep things the way they are, at least for a little while?

The next morning I was struggling through my quiet time trying to read through a chapter in one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, Hosea.  I was finding it a bit dry, which was also how my soul felt in that moment.  This is what I wrote in my journal that morning:

“Father God, help me have a God-attitude about the news I received yesterday.  I’m struggling and so sad, but most of all, I feel thrown out into The Wilderness, again.  God help me, help me to find joy and hope overflowing in this.  Release your blessings on my life… Make a way for me in the desert.  Bring me to a land of flowing streams, lush landscapes, soft hills, and babbling brooks.”

Later that day, I was still wrestling through what all of this meant and feeling gloomy.  While driving in my car, I heard these lyrics from a song in the general playlist of music on my phone.

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Letting go and trusting when I cannot see
I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Surely every season you are good to me.[i]

These words that I’d heard so many times before struck me with such significance.  Letting go.  To let go, you have to open your hand.  It was like the Spirit was saying this:

Jennifer, if you’ll open your hand again, you’ll see that I’m good to you in every season.  Let go of what you cannot keep.  Give it freely, so that I can give you the next blessing. 

Oh wow.  The wisdom in this.

It was a promise.  And just like with the Andes Mint moment, it required my action to activate it.  You see, I would have to emotionally release what was in my hand.  I would need to give it to my Abba Daddy, and with faith and trust, believe He would fill my hand again with something good.  I had to believe that He would fill it with something that was valuable and cherished, with something I would relish and enjoy.

Jim Elliot penned this now famous phrase, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Maybe, like me, you are facing another period of transition.  Do you feel the stirrings of change?  Is the Lord asking you to relinquish something?  Is He asking you to hand over something that’s of high value in your life?  An opportunity that may not come again?  A ministry position or job you really love? The future you thought you would have?  The way you spend your free time?

Even when we try to keep that tight grip of control on the things we value, we can’t hold on to them forever.  Change will happen, and wouldn’t it be much better if we relinquish our valued things to the Lord before they get dropped or smashed into the floor?

Beloved reader, open that hand and give the Lord its contents.  He knows what He’s asking.  Trust Him.  He wants to fill it again with something just as sweet.

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: …  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.[ii]

May His streams of Living Water flow freely through you, bringing refreshment and lush beauty to the barren places in your life.

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[i] “Counting Every Blessing” by Rend Collective, 2018 Capitol Christian Records

[ii] Isaiah 43:14a, 19 (NLT)