Control free and carried everywhere.

Honduras Photo

I love this photo. It’s from a trip I took to Honduras three years ago, to help my grandparents prepare for a new school year with the educational program they founded there. My interaction with this kid marked me forever.

He was by far the smallest one in this preschool we’d visited. I found him standing in the doorway, looking out at all the other kids on the playground. I could tell by the sheepish look on his face that he wanted to go out there, but he was afraid. In my very broken Spanish, we exchanged the few words I knew to ask him if he wanted me to take him.

I got down on my knees next to him and pointed at the playground.

“Vamos aqui?” (We go here?)

He pointed at the swings, and grinning, he responded, “Si! Alli!” (Yes! There!)

I picked him up and we sat down and began to swing together, and for hours, we didn’t move from there. He was having the time of his life. He knew what he wanted, but he was afraid and didn’t know how to get there. All it took was someone who could carry him. And as soon as I offered, with no hesitation, we went running straight for that swing.

This photo is framed in my living room, and lately it’s speaking to me every morning when I sit down to spend time with God. I’m learning that I want to be more like that kid.

Confession: I like to be in control. I don’t like to ask for help. (Isn’t that what Google is for? So we can consult the internet in secret without actually admitting we didn’t know something?) I tend to have a slight case of “I can do it better” syndrome.

An independent spirit plagues me if I’m not careful. 

My husband will probably be the first to tell you that I tend to be a backseat driver. I’m bossy in the kitchen. (That may never change — I’m Italian. It’s fine.) I prefer to have control of the TV remote. I am always DJ in the car. (I also have a mild case of “my music taste is better than yours” syndrome.)

I’m sure you’re catching my drift, so I’ll stop listing all of my flaws now. My point is that one of the most uncomfortable things for me to do is hand over the control of something that I feel entitled to do myself. Ugh… entitled. That word. I really am a millennial.

So as 2013 came to a close, I could sense this challenge from God hovering over every single area of my life: Are you going to give me all the control, or not?

Here’s how it all played out:

Scenario One: I had a part-time job as a nanny, and I was working part-time for a new publication here in Waco.  This publication was growing faster than we had anticipated, and if the business side of things didn’t develop at the same rate, we weren’t going to make it. So I was asked to take a risk in going full time and helping with marketing and ad sales (on top of doing the writing I was already doing), to help see this thing thrive.

Another confession: sales and all things administrative are totally out of my comfort zone! Every day when I go to work I feel like my heart is in my butt and I want to either vomit or cry (I haven’t vomited yet, but believe me, there have been tears). But I believe in this publication, and I felt very clearly like God had opened this door for a reason, so here I am, completely out of control and out of my comfort zone, which is I think exactly where He wants me.

Scenario Two: My most treasured friend is getting married in April. She lives in Charlotte, and actually, we have never lived in the same place. Being so far away, it’s been a lot harder than I anticipated to hand her over to this man I feel like I hardly know. 

All my protective best friend questions echo in my mind: Is he good enough for her? What about that one thing he did or said — should I be concerned about that? Is this a red flag? Why do I want to punch him right now?

And then, whispering through all those thoughts, another reminder from God that I’m not supposed to be in control: “Did you ever think that maybe it’s not so much about you trusting this man you don’t know, but more about you trusting me?” Ouch.

This list of places in my life He’s been asking me to relinquish control of could go on. Last week I told a story on my friend Elizabeth’s blog about how the holidays taught me it was time to let go of my right to my time with my family, and time to trust God that He knows what He’s doing with His plans for my future.

He even gets to hold the control of when, where, and how I’ll raise my own family one day. Not even my own children will be mine.

He will entrust me with what I need and what I can handle when it’s time. So I don’t have to be overwhelmed that I feel ill-equipped for my job, or sad that I feel a loss in leaving my family, or anxious about handing my best friend over to a stranger, or afraid of how and when all the ideals of my future will play out.

If He’s called me into something, there’s grace for me to do it. If something I’ve been believing for hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t time. His timing is always His grace, and His grace is always timely.

And the gift along the way is always His presence. It’s the only thing that matters, really. And I’m brought back to that photo on my living room wall, in the arms of the one who can carry me to the places I fear going alone, but know I deeply desire to go to.

Every morning I wake up and I stand in the doorway of a new day, looking at the place I want to go, but fearing it. And He kneels down, and He points at that thing I fear, and He says, “Do you want to go?”

Yes. There. Will you take me?

I don’t know how to do anything He’s asking me to do in this season without Him. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s vulnerable. And every day He’s carrying me, and every day I’m having the time of my life. Even in my fear and my inadequacy. 

He’s in control, and I am free.

There’s a lot of life out there.

ImageMy Ugandan Sunday morning started with this word from a friend. I wrote it down in my journal, not thinking much of it, but taking it as encouragement nonetheless. 

I met Joanna in the lobby an hour early and we headed out to Monica’s village. She wanted to come to church with us. We walked a lot of miles that day looking for her. After the first thirty minutes, I became more and more irritated with every step I took. Every winding dirt path that led to another grass roof hut that looked exactly like the last one we thought might have been hers … I felt like I was running up the down escalator, never quite reaching the place I actually needed to go.

And I thought it was peculiar how I kept seeing this strange pattern. A hen with baby chicks. A momma duck with ducklings. A dog with puppies. In retrospect I realized that all along that seemingly pointless wandering to find Monica, God was heralding the coming of new life. 

“Press on, child. What you see in these living parables along your path now, you’ll see in the Spirit next.”

But of course in the moment this isn’t what I’m hearing. Because I was hot and tired, and we were missing worship. I was ready to give up. We couldn’t get a hold of Monica on her phone, and we were lost in her village. 

Joanna, though, steadfast as she is — she wasn’t giving up.

“We have to get her to church. We’re not leaving without her.” She was preaching perseverance and my flesh was too thick between my ears and my heart to really receive it…

…but, well, I wasn’t going to cross her. So we waited some more. Minutes that felt like hours later, a phone call finally went through. Monica was on her way. She finally made it to where we were, and we walked about 20 minutes in the wrong direction plus 20 more minutes back before finally catching a bota to church. I was certain we’d missed it all by now. 

Wrong again. It was kind of starting to hurt.

Of course we made it just at the right time. We found Monica’s friend Doreen, who we’d also met in the market that week. Somehow (or not-so-somehow but by the grace of God) she made it, too. Despite us not being able to reach her all week.

And these two women, whom Joanna had led to Jesus earlier that week, both raised their hands to be baptized the following week. 

The chicks, ducklings and puppies suddenly fled back into my mind. Newness of life. Of course God knew.

Later that afternoon, as I sat down to write all this down, the clouds were rolling in. And I thought, “How timely. Of course the rain is coming.”

Because God always brings the rain to the sun-scorched land when we ask, and when it rains, it pours. Grace, grace, grace … and I was reminded of a word from a friend earlier that week: this trip will be marked by an ocean of grace. And let’s be honest, my heart needed cleansing that day.

So I stopped, and I looked out over the plains and watched the clouds, awaiting the rain. 

And I take a deep breath. There really is a lot of life out there today.