Derailed.

Just checking in because I hate to see posts like this one sit at the top for too long, dragging everyone down. I actually pulled it together this afternoon: I had a good cry over a glass of wine, I had a good cry on the phone with a friend, then I rallied myself to dig out of the clutter that was suffocating my living room.

I recognized early on in my day that I was responding completely wrong to everything – not just in my actions, but in my heart. I’ve felt bitter, angry, and selfish this week – and I’m not even pms-ing. I knew this, yet the train had already left the station and I didn’t know how to turn it around.

When I explained all this to my friend on the phone, she stopped to pray for me right then and there. “Lord Jesus, please pull up the tracks of Jen’s day so her train derails.”

In that moment those words felt like the most powerful thing anyone’s ever said to me.

I find that I am still attempting to change my anger and control tendencies by asserting my own will against them. Just typing out that last sentence is laughable – controlling my control issues with more control. Ha! That’s funny.

So much more to write, but it’s after 11 and it’s good to end on a light note anyway.

Grrrrr…..

I’ve had a really shitty and stressful day already, and it’s only 10:30. Thing after Thing has happened, giving many reasons to complain about the injustice of Things not going my way – some legitimate, some not. I’m am failing miserably, today, at responding to these Things with grace and mercy.

Maybe I should read my own posts about Thankfulness at my NaBloPoMo site.

Election Day

Last year on election day I turned a new leaf and made a new commitment to the democratic process. Having lived a life of apathy until that point, I felt challenged to care by people in my life that I respected. Not pressured by them, mind you, but internally challenged. I saw their example, and felt I needed to take action in my own life to make some changes.

This mostly came about as I unpacked layers of my inner demons that year to discover I was a lazy and apathetic person in general, not just politically. I made decisions based on my comfort, on convenience, on what I was feeling at the moment. Caring about democracy just wasn’t in the top ten list of Things That Make Jen Feel Better.

Funny, since if you took democracy away from me I would be feeling very consternated.

So last week I dug out my voter’s pamphlet for my area and read up on all the issues. I found that as a homeowner I was keen to read up on proposals pertaining to property tax increases; as a car owner I read up on road and bridge proposals; as a mother I read up on school levy proposals. Not having thought about these things at all in the last year, my brain was exercised to think about my priorities and how I wanted my tax dollars spent.

The morning after I voted, I found myself leaning against the stove, sipping coffee and watching the local news coverage regarding election results. That afternoon I checked the website for our major newspaper to see updated election results. I found myself invested in the very issues I knew nothing about prior to election day.

I am no political activist, but my vote made a tiny dent in the way things turned out last week – both at the polls and in my priorities – and that’s all I was hoping for.

Sun Kissed

My kids have been outside playing for the last hour and a half – ever since we got home from church. Earlier this week I had to lock the doors to keep them outside, and now that they should be napping, I can’t bear to drag them in.

I have, in general, lacked this balance in parenting, this bending of the rules for the sake of a rare sunny day in Seattle. But today I relent my need to control a schedule, and I let them play until they decide to stop.

Free write reflections

Argh! One day of wearing really crappy shoes last week got me shin splints, and I’m mad. I thought resting for four days over the weekend would heal them, but I was still feeling pain this morning when I woke up. So instead of running, I lumbered along on the Monotonous Machine of Monotony first, then WALKED on the treadmill for a low impact workout.

I really had to hold myself back from running once I got on the treadmill because my adrenaline got me going and the music was great and I really just wanted to take off running into the florescent sunset. But in my restraint I discovered HILLS! Yes, instead of running running running, I walked up steep ‘hills’ all morning at a very fast walking pace and ended up getting my heart rate up there pretty good despite the not running thing.

I read this post today by my friend Jenny, and much of what she said resonated with me. I’ve struggled with the same sort of thing lately – the unwillingness to submit my will.

After two weeks at the gym I’ve actually gained two pounds. And I don’t think it’s the muscle-weighs-more-than-fat kind of two pounds. I think it’s the I-worked-out-today-so-I-can-afford-this-ice-cream-sundae kind of two pounds.

And after several months of improved relations with Bryan, we fought this weekend. It was difficult and stressful, but we worked through it – though sadly we lost an entire day to the situation, and it set us back in many practical and emotional ways.

We are hosting a Bible study through the How People Change curriculum on Sunday nights. After our study in Chapter Two last night, I was compelled to start reading the book of Colossians. I made it through three chapters this morning before the kids noticed I was not paying attention to them, and this is what zapped me:

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already IN – insiders – not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.

and this:

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, ACT like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from HIS perspective.

In our study of the material and in our discussions last night, I was really struck by how driven I still am by the circumstances right in front of me instead of seeing the bigger picture. How I feel in the moment is what I end up basing my choices on.

We read 2 Corinthians 11:1-3 about being married to Christ. I have heard this marriage analogy my whole life, and tend to just gloss over it when discussed. But last night it jumped out at me; it grabbed me. Marriage. Fidelity. Christ’s love for us is perfect, yet we are enticed away by our own desires. What kind of marriage would I have if I continually flirted with men at the gym, or left Bryan at home to go trolling in the bars? If I don’t focus my love toward Bryan alone, we are doomed!

We have everything we needIn the notes in my leader’s guide for the curriculum it says to ask the group to name possible lovers that tempt us away from Christ. I wrote in my margin: I am a spiritual slut – I have many lovers. In the midst of so many good things, so many blessings, so many things to be thankful for, I am enticed away by things that glitter a bit more fanciful, that meet the mood I am feeling right then. And it clouds my vision with bitterness and anger when my perceived needs are not met.

I have no pretty bow to wrap this up in. All of this is raw reflection from the weekend, and I am still processing. Really, I was trying to leave a comment on Jenny’s post, and three paragraphs in I realized I had just started writing my own post. Curiously, I am not depressed or discouraged – so please don’t send me an email saying I need medication. Rather, I am grateful and encouraged that I am not given up on; that like Jenny, I can click the RESET button in my mind and try again.

Thanks for listening.

Plucking away at my hardened heart

My bean teepee has done well this summer, and has been a fun introduction into a vegetable garden beyond my usual tomatoes. When I planted my vegetables, I had great romantic visions of teaching the kids all about how things grow, and plucking the fruits of our labor together as folk music swelled in the background.

Not so much.

I don’t know why I always imagine myself as different than I am. Which is to say, how could I forget that I am the world’s bitchiest control freak?? In reality, I found myself sneaking out to the garden while the kids were otherwise occupied, just so I could pick beans in peace. Inevitably, Ruthie would always find me and beg to help, I would get frustrated, and a big record scratch sound would cut off the swelling folk music of my imagination.

She is so cute, and so helpful, and so capable of helping – yet I cannot seem to let go of my need to do everything my way.

One of the things I ‘have concerns’ about, is the possibility of an entire vine coming undone if she yanks too hard on a bean. To try and compromise, I held the base of vine that connected to the bean so Ruthie could safely pull the bean off. She eventually became frustrated by this, because she is, after all, a smart and capable little girl. And what’s scary, is that she knows it.

One day, after whining over and over about doing it herself, and me clenching tighter and tighter to my need to be in control, Ruthie literally shoved me out of the way, tenderly pinched the base of the bean stalk, and successfully plucked the bean off the vine, just as she had seen me doing. I laughed lightheartedly, scruffed her hair a little, and she beamed as I held out the bucket for her to drop the bean into.

We finished that harvest together, each picking our own beans, and me leaving her the hell alone.

She’s a tough cookie, that one. She’ll do alright out in the world – especially if she can manage her own mother.

Rough Drafts and Incoherant Thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of habitual sin. We all have sinned, and we all will continue to sin until we are perfect in death with Christ. But we also have a responsibility to turn from our sin, to repent, and to stop doing it.

So what to make of these habitual sins we enter into? What to make of my anger and its expression? Should I be able to just decide that I’m not going to act out in rage? Where does my effort end and God’s miraculous power take over? Or do they work in tandem?

So many questions, and I cannot work out my thoughts coherently. The whole thing seems like a paradox. So for now, I have collected a bank of scripture to draw from, and I pray the Holy Spirit will bring me clarity.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
– Romans 8:26 (NIV)

…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
James 1:20 (NIV)

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
– Romans 6:1-3 (The Message)

From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.
– Romans 6:11 (The Message)

Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.
– Romans 6:14 (The Message)

All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
– Romans 6:18 (The Message)

I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
-Romans 7:14-25 (The Message)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
– Romans 8:5-9 (NIV)

Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death. It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.
– Hebrews 2:14-18 (The Message)

…the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…
– Titus 1:1 (NIV)

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.
– Titus 3:3-8 (NIV)

Sin is no longer a NOUN that I am identified by, but a VERB, and action I DO.
– Pastor Bill Clem, MHC

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
– Ephesian 4:17-24

The Hard Work of Waiting

Why I ever thought it was a good idea to quit working out I will never know. Running (on the elliptical or otherwise) has always been a cathartic, meditative experience for me. In that space of breathing and following a rhythm I am more focused than at any other time, except maybe during the contractions of labor.

After nursing a back injury last week, I jumped back on the elliptical each morning this week for 30 minutes. It is during this time – ALWAYS – that I am able to shut out everything but the sound of my music and the voice of God. At the end of a workout I find myself centered, at peace, and usually running for my computer to jot down some revelation that came to me.

I listen to the same mix of seven songs during my workout:

Quiet Place – Sheri Youngward
Invitation Fountain – The Violet Burning
Clean (My God has Rescued Me) – The Violet Burning
Forty Weight – The Violet Burning
Lord Raise Me Up – Matisyahu
King Without a Crown – Matisyahu
Shalom – Matisyahu

Yesterday, during The Violet Burning’s Forty Weight – my arms and legs burning, and sweat dripping – I found myself bearing down into a difficult interval, pushing harder and harder into the resistance. Momentum was building. I was sprinting. Out of breath. And wailing over and over into the silence outside my iPod earbuds, “I WAIT FOR YOU…” In my tiredness and out of breath-ness, it was a pleading call, a reaching out.

The irony of ‘waiting’ for God as a motivator to run harder struck me.

There is an illustration I hear often in the church that describes a man who crashes his plane in the wilderness and survives. And he prays that God would deliver him from the wilderness he is in. Then a hiker walks by and offers to guide him out of the wilderness, and the man declines, insisting that he is waiting for God to deliver him. Then a helicopter flies overhead, the pilot offering to airlift him out of the wilderness, but the man declines and says he is waiting for God to deliver him. The man then dies in the wilderness. And when he faces Jesus in heaven he is angry and bitter and says, I prayed for you to deliver me from the wilderness, but you did not hear me. And Jesus says to him, I sent you a hiker to guide you out, and a helicopter pilot to carry you out, and you did not see that it was me delivering you from the wilderness.

I don’t want my waiting to be like that. I don’t want to be standing around waiting for God to zap off my ass like a good liposuction surgery. I don’t want to be sitting in my chair waiting for God to suck the anger vapors from my body like a fancy Ghostbusters trick. I want my waiting to be a running toward God, a desperate seeking of his presence. Not because he can heal me or fix me or make me feel better, but because in his presence there is a peace that passes understanding.

The Emotionally Healthy Jen

When I last saw my therapist we went over a self evaluation he’d previously given me. It was an inventory of spiritual and emotional maturity taken from the book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero. Taking this test has shattered the fear and mystery surrounding one of my most embarrassing traits.

I talk about myself too much. When I hear a story? I rush in and tell a related story. Got an aunt with skin cancer? I had a step-dad with lung cancer. Caught your finger in the car door? I once fell off a curb. Sometimes I’m thinking so frantically about what to say next, that I miss half of what the other person is saying. Or I completely blow over some serious thing she has just said, because, Oh guess what! me too! and let me tell you about it…

I am insanely self conscious about this habit, but when I see it coming it’s like a train wreck happening in warp speed and my brain is stuck in slow motion. I can’t seem to help myself, but just after the words come out of my mouth I feel like an idiot. I spend a lot of time in the ladies room at social events, smacking my forehead and chanting, “STUPID STUPID STUPID GIRL! SHUT UP A LISTEN, FOR GOD’S SAKE!”

Just the other day a friend blogged about reaching a physical and emotional milestone in training for a 5K run. I know her personally and I follow her blog, so I’m well aware that this milestone is not just about running, but about discipline and overcoming dysfunctional habits as well. But instead of commenting on her success or encouraging her, I dive right into a story about my own kid’s latest swear word because she mentioned her son said “crap.”

I seriously did that. Go ahead, click on that link and scroll down. Not only did I do that, but I commented first, and it was, like thirty seconds after she posted.

WTF?

Who the fah cares?

I was horrified when I checked back into the conversation a day later to find that, like, millions of other people congratulated or encouraged her, only they didn’t say one frackin’ thing about themselves! Because it’s not! about! me!

Back to therapy. The inventory is designed to evaluate whether you are an Emotional Infant, Child, Adolescent, or Adult. On all accounts except one, I scored that I am an Emotional Adolescent (on the one, I scored as an Emotional Child, to which that description also fits me well). Here is the description I read of an Emotional Adolescent, the description which I seemed to have defined:

Like a physical adolescent, I know the right ways I should behave in order to “fit in” mature, adult society. I can feel threatened and alarmed inside when I am offered constructive criticism, quickly becoming defensive. I subconsciously keep records on the love I give out, so I can ask for something in return at a later time. When I am in conflict, I might admit some fault in the matter, but I will insist on demonstrating the guilt of the other party, proving why they are more to blame. Because of my commitment to self-survival, I have trouble really listening to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs without becoming preoccupied with myself (italics added).

Really, I could write an essay on how each sentence of this description nails me. Especially the sentence about mildly accepting blame while taking the opportunity to take the other person (Bryan) down with me.

But this essay is about my self preoccupation.

And there it is. It is Named. It is no longer something I wonder why about, or something to smack my forehead over, because now I can learn more about why I do it and how I can stop. I feel empowered.

When I actually read the whole book, I will let you know how it goes.

[Excerpt taken from Pete Scazzero with Warren Bird, The Emotionally Healthy Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). For more information contact www.newlifefellowship.org or www.emotionallyhealthychurch.com.]

Resisting

They say depression is anger turned inward, which likely explains the funk I’ve been in. I thought I was coming out of it a few weeks ago, but in retrospect I see it is more circumstantial – as in, if things go the way I want them to I’m happy, and if they don’t, I’m depressed. I have not been very successful in just going with the flow, but rather I’ve had very strong expectations of how I want my day to go and my children to behave, and things aren’t really working out the way I had hoped.

Because, as you know, shit happens that I can’t do anything about.

My heart feels tightly clenched, rebellious, closed. I haven’t been able to write. Little things anger me, and nice people irritate me. Suggestions and helpfulness infuriate me. And in all things that don’t go my way, I am the victim.

Whew. It feels good to get that out – to name it.

I saw my therapist yesterday for the first time in months. I love him. He is soft and compassionate, but still tells me things that are difficult to hear. He counsels with the perfect balance of Biblical truth and therapeutic mumbo jumbo. He doesn’t just tell me to sin less and love Jesus more, but digs in to the very complicated labyrinth of lies I have believed about myself and about God. He understands the context of habitual sin.

I described all the ways in which I felt frustrated as a parent of Ruthie. I recounted scenarios in which I had done all the right things, but was still screamed at. I cried, wondering why God had given a woman like me a daughter like Ruthie. As each story progressed my therapist whistled and shook his head, chuckled, and said things like, “Wow, you’ve got a strong one.” But when I cried about Why, he gently reminded me that God was using my relationship with Ruthie to transform my heart of anger.

More crying. More release. More submission.

I bawled all the way home yesterday. I probably should have pulled over. Never do I nor my therapist imply that Ruthie’s behavior justifies my sinful actions, but the floodgates of my emotions were opened at the reminder that she is… exceptional. It actually reminds me that this is the way she is, and I need to stop wishing she was different. Working with her would be a lot easier than working against her.

I have also resolved that I have done just about all the behavioral modification that one person can do, and at this point it is all about my submitting to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit – which means dying to myself.

I hate this concept of dying to myself because I think my own needs and wants are really really really important. I just want everyone around me to know exactly what their script says so I don’t have to actually direct. It seems so ridiculous that I live like this, but it’s true: nobody in my house is more important than me.

And it’s starting to feel really icky.

[Here is where I usually insert a snappy wrap-up about lessons learned and moving forward and all that. But since I am feeling unresolved, perhaps my writing should reflect that, too.]

Scott Berkun on How to Stay Motivated

Scott Berkun is a local author friend of Bryan’s, whom I’ve met on several occasions at various tech gatherings. I am fascinated by his writing, because although he writes from a business perspective on topics such as project management, I always seem to find nuggets of truth in his essays that can be applied to my personal walk through life.

Take this essay, for instance, on How to Stay Motivated. He opens with this paragraph:

All great tasks test our motivation. It’s easy to court ideas over beers and change the world with napkin sketches, but like most things taken home from bars, new challenges arise the next day. It’s in the morning light when work begins, and grand ideas (or barroom conquests) lose their luster. To do interesting things requires work and it’s no surprise we abandon demanding passions for simpler, easier, more predictable things.

We can all identify with this, right? The desire to lose weight, met with the reality of exercise. The desire to stop raging, met with the reality of giving up control. The desire to reconcile an argument with my husband, met with the reality of humbling myself and first asking for forgiveness.

Crossing over from desire to action is where I often do a face plant.

Last week I experienced every test of my patience and self-control that could be thrown at me. I started out fine, of course, rolling with it as I adjusted my expectations several times. But as I was tested time after time, I felt my patience chipping away, and my sense of entitlement rising up within me.

Haven’t I compromised enough this week? How much do I really have to sacrifice for other people? When do I get to catch a break and get what I want? I think after all this I deserve for something to go right.

In the early afternoon on Friday I threw a small temper tantrum when a program on my computer didn’t accomplish what I needed it to. And, as Bryan walked through the front door on his return from a lunch meeting, he was caught up in the swirling of my tornado-like anger. I verbally spun around the room, sucking in anything that wasn’t securely attached. Bryan tried for several minutes to reason with me before darting down the stairs to the safety of his office, ignoring me as I screamed at him, “What, are you just going to walk away from me???”

Uh, yeah. When met with a tornado, I advise you to run the hell away from it.

I managed to pull myself together before the kids woke up, and I later apologized to Bryan for taking my frustration out on him. In the process I realized how unproven the New Jen is.

Many things have changed about me – heart changes; deeply rooted, fundamental transformations – but it wasn’t the magic of a puff of smoke. I worked hard to get here, and I was worked hard on by God. Maintaining the New Jen requires continuous hard work and motivation, and continuous reliance on Christ to transform me, because I am lazy by nature, and in some ways it was easier to be who I was.

Easier, but then again not easier.

I also appreciate that Scott includes The Crazy Friend as an important motivator. I call this community, and without it, this process of transformation would have been a lot slower, with obnoxiously unending naval gazing, and not nearly as much fun. True community breeds laughter through tears, and provides perspective into myself that I can’t see on my own. Scott writes:

They’re the ones best likely to get what you’re talking about, why you care so much about something few others do, and will rally behind you, increasing the odds you’ll get it done. Use the buddy system: you be their crazy friend if they’ll be yours.

So as I caught up on my RSS feeds over the weekend and read this essay, it was good timing and a good reminder that Great Things require endurance. And for me, the greatest motivation must remain the transforming love of Christ.

Comfort & Control

In an effort to keep up with the ever-changing Jen, I’m adding a new category called Comfort & Control. Having passed through seasons of depression (with more to come, I’m sure) and Rage (ditto), I find myself thinking through new struggles that don’t fit in either category (thankfully).

While at a conference this weekend (based on this textbook I just finished) I was reminded of a few foundational things that have helped me better understand my anger over the last year. First, I was reminded of the book I read awhile ago that revealed how my anger comes from a place of desiring control – how my need to control others and/or my situation results in fits of rage when things do not go my way. This was revolutionary to me when I first read it, and was the tipping point for me in embracing my need to be changed.

Secondly, I was reminded of my obsession with comfort, and how it results in fits of rage when I don’t get what I want. Seeking rest and comfort is not a bad thing – we all need rest and comfort to recharge – but I had been frequently crossing the line into selfish territory, expecting comfort at levels way beyond what I needed to stay healthy and sane as a mother.

It occurred to me as I listened to the teaching that this is the new phase I am in – one that surrenders not just her anger, but her need to be in control. So far I have experienced significant behavioral modification, but I believe the heart of anger – control and selfishness (comfort) – still holds me.

Two events in the last week illustrated for me how significant my need is to be in control. The first was when we visited friends in Ellensburg. My friend, Heather, has a four year old daughter who is a bit cantankerous like Ruthie. After making a plate loaded with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, her daughter instisted on carrying the plate to the table.

Me? I would have been exasperated at such a request, and snapped something rude back to Ruthie about doing it myself. Heather? She said, “That’s fine, but you need to hold out both arms.” And she proceeded to place the very large plate of sandwiches in this child’s care for the looong walk to the table.

I turned to my friend, Jenny, and said, “That would have never happened in my house.”

But it really got me thinking of all the reasons why I would have needed to control that situation, and they all boiled down to my own selfishness. Because what if the plate had been dropped? In my mind there would have been a great mess with crumbs and smear and sticky, and all my time and resources would have been wasted. I would have to clean up the mess and do it all over.

But in all likelihood, if the plate had been dropped we could have just pick it all back up again and proceed as before. After all, PB&J’s are pretty hearty and don’t fall apart all that easily. And even if it would have made a mess that I had to clean up and do over, WHO THE FUCK CARES as long as my daughter feels a sense of independence and pride for being a part of the process?

I learn from my mistakes (usually), why shouldn’t she be given the same opportunity?

The second event that glaringly illustrated my need to be in control was the conference I was attending. Here I was, at a conference sponsored by a church that trained various leaders within that church to effectively support and lead others through personal growth and change because the elders recognized that they are not capable of helping every person within our large congregation (literally thousands). So they have entrusted small group leaders, band leaders, community group leaders, etc. – people who interact with and have relationship with other people – in good faith, by spending thousands of dollars on top notch biblical training, to see that these leaders are properly equipped to minister to others, essentially giving up control of that role for themselves.

Once I realized this, my mind was reeling with all the implications: the elders’ ability to recognize what they are and are not gifted and/or able to do; their trust in the people they have placed in key positions within the church, and their faith that God will use the resources they’ve provided to accomplish the intended goal.

Suddenly, the minutia of my peanut butter and jelly scenario seemed insignificant.

All this to say (and I recognize this is a very long post) I am encouraged. Creating this new category somehow categorizes in my mind what is happening in me spiritually. I am not laboring through the same old shit – I am evolving and overcoming new things.

I am moving forward.