Little Foxes

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading a modern classic called Little Foxes that Spoil the Vines by W.B.J. Martin (Abingdon Press, 1968). The book, which is essentially a call to examine and deal with “small” sins and destructive habits, is loosely based on this Scripture passage:

Song of Songs 2:15 (ESV)
15 Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”

The author sums up his premise this way: “By paying attention to the small habits and gestures of daily life, one may cultivate an attitude of reverence, of sensitivity, and of courtesy that can affect the whole personality.” Paying attention and dealing with “little” sins is what he calls catching the little foxes.

But he continues, “If a man is to keep the little foxes out of his vineyard, he has to to learn to let the Lord of the vineyard do the pruning and the sifting. And this He will assuredly and sure-handedly do, since He knows what to preserve and what to destroy.” (caps mine)

I find the dual-responsibility Martin espouses in his little book refreshing. It’s both our responsibility (catching the foxes) and God’s responsibility (pruning, giving life) to affect our change. We do all we can to foster our growth all the while relying on God to change us.

Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

But it’s not. Not really.

Physical growth in the real world is like that, too. We see examples of it all around us:

  • the farmer who plants, fertilizes, weeds, and waters, but who, because he cannot force a seed to germinate or prevent drought, relies entirely on God for his harvest
  • the husband and wife who do all they can to conceive a child, but who must rely on God for that fertilization to take place and for the unborn child to grow into a healthy full term baby
  • the wanna-be athlete who trains and works out and supplements his diet, but who cannot change his basic body type or his genetic predisposition or aptitude for athleticism
  • the development of newborns (human or animal), a development that depends on external nurture and care, yet depends on the Author and Giver of life to sustain life.

This idea of “dependent responsibility” was never more clear to me than when our three-year-old, yellow Labrador retriever, Elsie, gave birth to a healthy litter of nine puppies three weeks ago. (For the whole blow-by-blow account from then until now, visit my LabTails blog).

[This happy event, btw, plus a few 60-hour work weeks, is why I haven’t posted here at Soul Care for Women for the last three weeks; I’ve had my hands full.]

Anyway, we did all we could do for Elsie and her pups: had her checked by the vet, increased her food, limited her exercise toward the end of her pregnancy, stayed with her throughout her 34-hour labor, helped deliver her pups, taught her what to do with her newborns (this was her first litter), had all our emergency supplies ready, provided attentive care and appropriate whelping support.

But the health and well-being of her puppies–their lives–though Elsie provided sustenance, warmth, and protection, ultimately rested in the hands of God–a truth hammered home just two short days into our puppy adventure.

One pup, a solid, healthy male only two days old, the second born, suffocated under Elsie’s weight as she nursed the other pups. Talk about heart-wrenching! Talk about humbling.

We’d been responsible. We’d done everything possible for Elsie and her pups, yet only eight thrived and one died. And no matter how hard we tried to breathe new life into the expired pup (we did puppy CPR), the puppy wouldn’t come back.

We’d done all we knew to do, but for all our effort we couldn’t will new life into the pup.

Similarly, I can’t will new life into my soul. I can do all I can to facilitate growth (as in catch the little foxes or put myself in a position to grow through various spiritual disciplines), but God alone breathes life into my soul. God alone transforms me.

Dependently responsible. I think that’s how God designed us to be.

And when we realize our growth is both in God’s hands and ours, when we do what we can while depending on God to accomplish it, we’ll experience growth like never before.

I think it’s time for me to do some fox catching. I’ll work on weeding out those things that drain life from me and keep me from growing as I should. And maybe I’ll nuzzle a few of our puppies along the way to remind me of God’s grace in and sovereignty over my growth. I may work at my growth, yes, but through it all I’ll rely Him.

Will you join me?

‘Til next time,


Of Beauty and Brokenness

Isn’t this butterfly beautiful?

And this one, too?

No, they’re not the same butterfly, though they are both swallowtails. If you look closely at the second, he’s missing a part of his hind wing (tail), the tip on the bottom left side.

One butterfuly is broken; the other is not. But both flutter and dance in the breeze, displaying a beauty all their own.

The culture we live in — that airbrushed culture of fake perfection — says that only the unblemished can be beautiful, only the perfect can dance on life’s breezes.

I beg to differ.

I scream to differ.

Look at what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corithians 12:9-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When Paul wrote this, God had just finished speaking to him in response to Paul’s plea for God to remove his “thorn”: “My grace is sufficient for you,” God said, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul can delight in his brokenness and weakness because of God’s sufficient grace.

Our culture denies the reality of our need for God’s grace. It denies that every one of us is broken (some just hide it well). So it rejects imperfection and sniffs at brokenness. It would have us be ashamed.

Rather than viewing our brokenness (whatever it is) with shame, we can embrace it as an opportunity to rely on God’s grace in ways we wouldn’t have without being broken. We can accept it as a means by which the world can seen God’s work in and through us. We can see it as a means to display God’s glory and beauty to those around us.

You see, Perfect People think they don’t need God. The broken know they do. And rejoice.

Why? Because we know God’s grace is sufficient to carry a broken swallowtail. We know His grace is sufficient to carry us. And we know that broken butterflies and broken people alike can fly with beauty as we rely on Him.

‘Til next time,

I wrote yesterday about “cottage cues”: those things with which I surround myself to remind my soul to be peaceful and still.

Today I thought I’d tell you about the other side of remembering: the “giggle factor” side.

Yup… I also surround myself with reminders to laugh or giggle or smile and not take life too seriously (which, of course, is my propensity).

Laughter is, indeed, good medicine; it lifts the soul.

Here are just a few of my “giggle factor” reminders, all captured in my home office today:

My “Compu-Troll” (a woodland troll named “Acorn” — notice his nose and hat — who clings to the top edge of my flat-screen monitor and whose job it is to protect my computer).

My stuffed hedgehog, who sits atop my lightbox, and who occasionally receives a stress-release squeeze from me (he’s very tolerant and understanding). I keep threatening to take him into the office at work where I can throw him at my co-workers when they drive me nuts, but I haven’t done so … yet. But look out; that day will come (bwaaa ha ha ha ha!)!

One of my plush moose, who hangs out by my wall calendar and makes me smile:

My sleepy bear clock (always napping), who reminds me that sometimes the most spiritual thing I can do is sleep:

There are more, but these give you the gist of my giggle-factor items. Most bring smiles to my face several times a day. And each smile lightens my heart, even if only for a moment.

The God who created giraffes and manatees has to have a sense of humor. I like to think that my quickness to find benign humor in little things (and to smile at hedgehogs and mooses) somehow reflects His image and humor to a dour, frowning world.

There’s so much to frown about that I think we forget the joy of smiling. And there are always things to smile about even in the darkest places (I’ve been there; I know.).

I’m learning that a smile (not fake, but genuine even through tears) can go a long, long way. It can even make the dark places bearable.

So I choose to smile in the midst, just as I choose to take “cottage cues” moments to still my soul.

It takes only a moment and costs nothing. And I can’t think of a better return.

Won’t you join me?

‘Til next time,

Okay. I’ll admit it.

I wrote about this topic back in February when Dear Hubby sent me two-dozen roses for Valentine’s Day. My entry today is recycled from what I wrote then.

I write about it now only because an incident last night reminded me of February’s lesson.

Dear Daughter, who came home for only a short two-day visit, went with me to see the movie Hairspray last night (a fabulous movie, btw). It was one of those mom-daughter-dates I fully expected to be fun and relaxing (DD and I have a special bond, and we enjoy being with each other). We can giggle together, and Hairspray was just the right movie for us to enjoy if we wanted an evening away to laugh and have fun.

I won’t go into details (my blood pressure still rises when I think about it), but not one minute into arriving someone in the theater treated Sarah and I with rudeness and contempt.

It was the last thing I needed after this week’s stresses at work. It was the last thing Sarah needed coming off 36-hours straight working as an EMT. We were exhausted and fragile.

The interaction soured us both and nearly ruined our night out.

I was ticked off and hurt. Sarah, who is two weeks shy of turning twenty-one, was ready to let this couple have it — full blast, double-barrel, in-your-face, “don’t talk to me that way” kind of reaction.

So there I was trying to keep my confident-self-assured-not-afraid-of-anyone daughter calm, yet trying to rationally deal with these nasty, arrogant people.

I finally turned from them, and told Sarah to drop it and ignore them,. I tried to ignore them (and their gestures) and prayed that God would give me grace to take the higher road.

So I sat there fuming (some higher road, eh?). Through 10 minutes of ads for coke and chef-boyardee. Then through 10 minutes of previews. And then through the start of the movie.

I was still mad, I mean ulcer-producing angry.

I think I was worn out. Work’s been emotionally draining this week, and I haven’t been sleeping well, so I had no margin or threshold to deal with these cynical, sarcastic, senior citizens (yes, the instigators of our encounter were two older people).

But God is bigger than my anger, my human frailty, and my weariness. He’s even bigger than my sinful desire to punish the people in front of us.

Twenty minutes into the movie (nearly an hour after the incident), I began to see this couple for what they were: sad, angry people, self-centered people who think they have to make others feel small so they can feel superior.

Life can’t be fun at their house.

But life is fun (by grace) at mine. :o)

Though it felt like it, I really wasn’t the hurting individual in the movie theater last night. Neither was Sarah. The couple in front of us must have carried far larger wounds to have to be so nasty to complete strangers.

Which brings me back to Valentine’s Day and my earlier post.

When I received flowers from DH in February, I was disappointed: they looked dreary, nearly dead. I suppose that had something to do with their sitting on a plane overnight in sub-zero temperatures (they got stuck in the awful ice storm of February 14, 2007). The bouquet looked ruined.

But I was wrong (not for the first time, nor for the last).

I read the little booklet that came with my flowers, and tucked deep inside were these instructions: “Remove the outer three or four petals. We leave these on your roses to protect the buds in transit.”

So pluck away I did, removing three or four petals from each rosebud.

And underneath, much to my surprise, I found gorgeous, healthy roses just waiting to open.

DH’s Valentine’s gift provided a great lesson I long ago learned but had forgotten:

Don’t trust first impressions.

So many of us wear damage spots, worn emotions, and frayed outer shells; yet beneath all that are precious souls loved by God waiting to blossom and become all God intends them to be.

We just need to look past the wilted edges.

Looking past the wilted edges last night meant I could eventually forgive these folks for nearly ruining what turned out to be a great evening with my sweet girl anyway. It allowed me to pray for them (and not for God’s vengeance!). And it allowed me to not take their outburst and actions personally.

Looking past the edges freed me to love.

Today, perhaps in a less-than-ideal encounter, won’t you join me in looking past the edges?

You may find unexpected beauty, and freedom.

‘Til next time,



I wrote in yesterday’s entry how some things never die, how old heartaches can take us by surprise and leave us feeling things we haven’t felt, perhaps, in decades.

They can make us feel like we’re walking old paths we thought we’d left behind. The paths may, indeed, be behind us, but their ramifications are not.

Despite current trends in contemporary Christian thinking, I don’t believe we ever reach a place where we we’re completely healed (note the word, “completely”) in this lifetime (note the phrase, “in this lifetime”) of the emotions we experience in reaction to our wounds, whatever they are.

If anything, it seems to me, honest grief over consequences of living in a fallen world should be our natural response (as believers) to these things. It’s healthy. It’s biblical. It’s what Jesus did when he wept for the lostness of Jerusalem.

We weep for our fallenness and the fallenness of those around us. We weep for what was, and perhaps is, but never should have been.

And we’ll continue to grieve as we recall those things throughout our lifetimes.

But we don’t grieve as the world grieves. We grieve, but never without hope:

hope of redemption
hope in that “one day” when there will be no more sin or death or shame.
hope in God’s sovereign ability to use all things for His glory
hope that this life isn’t all there is
hope that pain and suffering are not without purpose
hope that pain and suffering will end
hope that our brokenness will one day be restored
hope that we will be made whole- that is, completely whole – one day.

But not yet.

It shouldn’t surprise me, then, that Ive been feeling what I’ve been feeling. It’s part of life here and now. I’m even okay with it (admittedly, not without discomfort and a few inner protests).

I’m even encouraged. Though I’m dealing with old issues, I’ve grown that much more since the last time I dealt with them. I’m handling them even better now. And next time – and for sure there will be a next time – I’ll have that much more growth behind me.

Such is the process of sanctification. Already…but not yet.

So I face the same issues over and over again, but with each passing season I come at them from a position of added growth, deeper maturity, and greater reliance on and trust in the God who reigns.

And the wounds that drove me to Jesus nearly 30 years ago are the very same wounds that make me long for Him even more today.

Those are wounds I can live with. Even for a lifetime.

And I suspect I’ll be living with them for the rest of my earthly days.

But not forever. :o)

Come quickly, Lord.

‘Til next time,

The Gift of Darkness

One of the things I love about summer in Pennsylvania is the influx of fireflies we experience each July.

Fireflies, for those of you deprived of these critters, are little flying glow bugs.

Or if you’re more technically minded, they’re “winged nocturnal light-producing insect[s] usually producing a bright soft intermittent light without sensible heat by oxidation of luciferin” (Merriam-Webster).

We find them flying everywhere, but particularly over open fields and lawns.

And it’s the darkest of nights that yields the most fascinating, ah-producing experience of these miniature luminaries.

Without darkness, we wouldn’t see them.

Without darkness we wouldn’t enjoy the peace of their pulsing glows.

The same could be said about man-made light. While in western PA for my brother-in-law’s wedding this spring, we enjoyed a river-boat ride through downtown Pittsburgh (his wedding reception was on the boat – great fun!). Earlier in the evening with the sun still shining we enjoyed spectacular views of the cityscape.

But these didn’t compare with Pittsburgh’s skyline at night. I didn’t even know, on first pass, that the dome in this picture (left) was lighted at night; I thought it was just another big, ugly skyscraper.

But it lit up with evening’s approach, and on our return trip, there it gleamed, golden against the night sky.

I saw this building differently in darkness.

I saw what was ordinary (even dull or ugly) in daylight as beautiful when contrasted with a dark, stormy sky.

Lately, it seems, we’ve been surrounded by darkness: not the literal kind, but the figurative darkness of difficult circumstances.

  • Several friends have experienced sudden deaths in their families (and we’ve had few of our own in our extended family).
  • Others have seen old psychological issues creep back into and disrupt their daily lives.
  • Still more have had to deal with strange medical diagnoses or (perhaps worse) undiagnosed chronic illnesses.
  • A few seem trapped in sin.
  • A few have seen resurgence of cancers long in remission.
  • One or two face recently diagnosed (for the first time) psychiatric disorders.
  • One or two find themselves in the throws of doubt or crises of faith.
  • Still others puzzle over financial challenges and job losses.
  • And nearly all look forward to when their particular darknesses will cease.

Instead of allowing darkness to nurture our awareness of and appreciation for light right now, we count the days until darkness ends, perhaps completely missing night’s lights and their beauty along the way.


We see it as threatening and to be avoided. It frightens us.

But God redeems darkness (see Genesis 1). During Creation, He called the existing darkness “night” and assigned a light to govern the night and to mark the seasons (Genesis 1:14-19). He found use for darkness. And night and day together He called “good.”

God tells us in Isaiah 42 that He turns darkness into light. In Isaiah 45, He says He forms the light and creates darkness.

And then there are the Psalms:

Psalm 112:4 Even in darkness, light dawns…
Psalm 139:12 Even the darkness will not be dark to you…

Why? Because God penetrates our darkness with light. Sometimes it’s the soft, minute specks of light like those of the firefly; other times it’s an overpowering beacon like that of a lighthouse or illuminated skyscraper.

In either case, He, in whom there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), penetrates our darkness with light. He walks with us in the darkness. He gives us the light we need.

I know, for me, the darkness that terrifies most is the same darkness in which I most notice and appreciate light.

For me, it takes the darkest night sky to see the greatest beauty in a field full of fireflies.

Maybe darkness isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Maybe, instead of avoiding it or dreading it or waiting for it to end, I’ll embrace it as the opportunity- and beauty-inducing gift it can be.

‘Til next time,

A Quote to Ponder

A man should

hear a little music,
read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares
may not obliterate
the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted
in the human soul.~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~

‘Til next time,

Enjoy the Journey

I celebrated my 47th birthday last week.

Birthdays, for me, prompt self-assessment and reflection. Where am I? Where am I headed? Who have I become, and who am I becoming? Who do I want to be? How do I want to live my life.

Now, well into my middle years, I can finally say, “I think I’m getting it.”

Life, that is.

It ‘s not about accumulation, accomplishment, checklists or completion. It isn’t about achievement or credential lists or reputations. It isn’t about things or finishes at all.

It’s about who we are and how we live along the way.

Eleven years ago, in the summer of 1996, we lived briefly in France (just three months) as part of a temporary job relocation for DH. It was cheaper to move all of us over there (DH, me, and the kids) than it was to fly Don back and forth across the ocean every two weeks. So DH’s company rented a stylish, contemporary apartment for us in Paris, and the kids and I bopped around the city during the week while hubby slaved away.

We traveled together on weekends, though, and took a two-week vacation in the French Alps that July.

Hiking in the Alps provided one of the summer’s highlights. We searched hiking manuals and trail guides and found an “easy” rated trail the book said would take 3 hours to climb and about 2.5 hours to descend — a total of 5.5 hours, maybe 6 max, to reach the summit and return.

The book lied (or French climbers are significantly more adept at climbing than we are, even though we’re seasoned hikers). Or maybe we hadn’t acclimated to the altitude.

Whatever it was, our climb took much longer than the book said it would. And it wasn’t “easy” by any stretch of the imagination.

Some stretches included boulder fields and vertical (yes, vertical) rock faces. We managed them well, but not without difficulty, especially for the kids (who were 12, almost 10, and almost 9 at the time).

Other stretches were incredibly steep. Dizzyingly so.

If you look closely in the photo on the left, I’ve circled Don in the bottom left of the image (you can also see one of the kids in front of him, farther to the left). That gives you an idea of how steep and high our “little Alp” climb was.

But we kept on.

Five hours into our hike we still hadn’t reached the summit. Yes, we enjoyed the trail, and we paused to rest and take lunch and snack breaks in scenic areas, and we relished magnificent views.

But we wanted to say we hiked to the summit. We pressed farther and farther, higher and higher, waiting for when we’d achieve our goal.

Just twenty yards short of the summit, however, we reach an impassable section of trail: sheer rock-face with no hand-holds on the right; deadly, open-air, vertical drop on the left, and a rocky, uneven, strip of loose dirt and stone in between (that couldn’t have been more than 8 inches wide at most).

My pride wanted to crest this Alp.

My need to impress and to say we “reached the summit” nearly pressured me into doing something foolish.

But all I had to do was look to my left and let my dizziness remind me of how frail we really are, look to the right and see nothing to hang on to, and then look into the three tired faces of my troop behind me (remember, my oldest son has mild CP and balance issues) to realize our adventure wasn’t about reaching the summit at all. It never had been.

  • Our adventure was about building memories.
  • It was about learning to encourage each other along the way.
  • It was about enjoying the vistas and challenges.
  • It was about pushing ourselves to do what we might have thought impossible another day and time.
  • It was about loving each other and enjoying each other’s company and growing together as we faced tough trails and perilous paths.
  • It was about the journey, and not the destination.

And in that moment, the choice was clear. Satisfying my pride wasn’t worth risking my health or life over, nor was it worth risking the health and lives of my children.

Our hike wasn’t about a place or an end; it was about how we managed the journey. We could have a “successful” adventure, even if we never reached the destination.

It was an illustration of life.

Twenty yards short of the summit (according to our map and trail guide) we turned around and headed back down (it took us three hours to get back to the trail head).

Check-list gal that I was at the time, I so wanted to reach the peak and claim its bragging rights. I pushed because, for a few moments anyway, I thought it was about reaching the goal.

But I was wrong. As I stood there at our impasse at over 2000 meters altitude (over 6,500 feet), having hiked up nearly 1150 meters (nearly 4,000 feet) in altitude from our starting point at a mere 850 meters (about 2, 800 feet), I realized how wrong I was.

And I’ve remembered that lesson since.

We didn’t reach the top, no. But we had a great day:

  • gorgeous scenery (that we did take time to notice)
  • breath-taking (literally) vistas
  • laughs and giggles
  • a few tears, some fatigue, and pain
  • deepened bonds
  • greater trust
  • growth in how to encourage and support each other
  • lessons in perseverance, love, and family life
  • irreplaceable memories (our Alp hike is one of the few adventures our kids remember from our summer in France)

So I’m 47 years old now.

And, no, I haven’t reached the summit in many of life’s arenas. None, in fact. I doubt I ever will. I don’t have a boatload of achievements, credentials, or letters after my name. I don’t even pursue “checklists” and “accomplishments” anymore.

I’m “achieving” less and “living” more. I’m learning to enjoy the journey and its process, even if I I never reach its end (in this lifetime anyway).

And I’m happier and far more satisfied than I’ve ever been.

I’d say that’s a pretty good place to be.

So “happy birthday” to me. :o) And maybe by next year I’ll be enjoying the adventure even more.

‘Til next time,

As I’ve been thinking further about this idea of surrender, the more convinced I am that it’s a choice:

  • A deliberate act of the soul and will.
  • A purposeful selection of the preferred alternative.
  • A conscious decision for the better option.Surrender is a choice–completely voluntary.

It’s willful and active.

  • It doesn’t happen by osmosis.
  • It doesn’t happen by evolution.
  • It doesn’t happen by chance.
  • We don’t stumble upon or fall into surrender.

We choose it.

And we choose it over an alternative.

  • In battle, generals choose surrender over the further killing of their troops.
  • In manhunts, criminals surrender to avoid the prospect of being shot by police.
  • In chess, the losing opponent surrenders his king instead of playing into what is certain defeat.
  • For us, we surrender to God and His ways (when we actually choose to do so) often because the alternative holds little hope or promise.

Think about the Israelites under Joshua after they entered the Promised Land when they were about the renew their covenant with God. Joshua gave them the choice: if you don’t like God’s ways, choose another — go ahead and serve the Amorites if you’d rather.

It’s a choice:

Joshua 24:13-16 (NIV)
14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!

I’m convinced we face the same choice every day, each hour and minute of the day.

Choose this day whom you will serve.
Choose this day to whom you will surrender.

  • Will I surrender to my emotions or to the God who made me and knows my heart?
  • Will I surrender to my circumstances or to the God who reigns over them?
  • Will I surrender to my fear of the unknown or to the God who knows and sees it all?
  • Will I surrender to my desire to control things (an illusion anyway), or to the God who really does control all things?
  • Will I surrender to my wants or to the God who knows my wants, and my needs, and provides for them still?

The bottom line is this: I do surrender everyday, but the question is, to what or whom?

I voluntarily put myself into the control of someone or something: sometimes myself, sometimes my thoughts or emotions, sometimes other people’s expectations, sometimes others’ needs. In each case, I surrender.

Choose this day (this moment, this hour) whom you will serve (or surrender to).

It’s a deliberate act of the mind, heart, and soul.

  • Will I choose myself (knowing how bad for me I can be) or God and His always-good ways?
  • Will I choose lies (like “I have to perform to be loved”) or Truth (God loves me because it’s His nature to love)?
  • Will I choose the world’s rules, which only want to use me, chew me up, and spit me out, or will I choose the ways of the Kingdom, a place where I have value, worth, and dignity simply because I’m a child of the King.

As the Israelites cried, so I cry, “Far be it from [me] to forsake the Lord and serve other gods.”

The other gods are impostors and users and liars anyway.

Why surrender to them, when I can surrender to the real thing?

‘Til next time,

Let Go and Live!

Surrender produces growth.

I wish I could remember that.

I wish I could convince my heart, mind, and soul of the constant truth of that statement.

I wish I could just…let go.

But it’s not that easy. Especially when everything in me screams…

what about me?

what about my interests?
what about my reputation?
what about my pain?
what about my wants, hopes, and dreams?
what about my feelings?
what about my needs?
what about my right to ______ (justice, revenge, satisfaction, happiness, etc…)?

And it’s even less easy when I fall into believing the lies of my culture:

My future is in my hands.
I control my fate.
It’s all up to me.
I’m entitled!
The key to my success is my power and control.
If I love myself first, then I can love others.
I need to look out for number one.

What’s sadder still is this: self-interest and self-protection ultimately lead to self-slavery, not freedom.

Look at how much work goes into a self-focused lifestyle (it’s exhausting). A self-focused person thinks…

  • I have to be in charge. If I let others control things, they might not do things my way or put my interests first.
  • I have to micromanage loved ones, ministry partners, friends, and co-workers to make sure they do things the way I think they should be done.
  • I can never let down my guard, I might miss something, or worse yet, someone else might see that I’m imperfect.
  • If something goes wrong, it must be my fault (since I’m in charge), so I have to work harder to make things right OR if something goes wrong, it must be someone else’s fault, so I’d better micromanage them even more.

The world lies to us: there is no rest or freedom in self-focus. There’s no peace in self-protection. There’s no growth in self-centered manipulation and control. Oh, how deluded we are!

Now think about surrender.

When I surrender, that is, when I “yield to the power, control, authority, or possession of another” – Merriam-Webster (Unabridged), someone else handles the responsibility. Someone else endures the pressure, someone else carries the weight of concern.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately on several fronts:

  • my nearly grown children’s futures
  • financial concerns
  • conflicts at church
  • physical health
  • our Labs’ health (in particularly, Elsie, who may be pregnant)
  • work stressors
  • publishing (with my freelance writing)
  • speaking venues

I could, if I let myself, believe what the world tells me and live as if the outcomes of all the above were up to me.

And I’d be frantic, exhausted, stressed out, and overwhelmed.


I could choose to “let go”: to surrender myself, my wants, my needs, my hopes, my dreams, my name, my reputation, my worries, my concerns, my feelings, my joys, and my pains to the One who is really in charge (and always has been, despite my delusions).

Then, what happens to my children as their adult lives unfold, though I’ve been the best parent I know how to be, isn’t my responsibility (my fault or my claim to fame). What happens with my finances, though I endeavor to be faithful and wise in my stewardship, ultimately rests in God’s capable, faithful, providing hands. My health concerns and church conflicts and work stress and publishing outcomes–though I’m called to follow scriptural guidelines in how I handle these things–ultimately depend on God’s grace and mercy, not on my ability to perform for, manipulate, or influence others

You see, I’m called only to be faithful. The outcomes aren’t up to me (they never were).

The outcomes belong to God.

And when I embrace this truth and surrender to His sovereignty and ways, I’m free to…

  • build up, and not tear down
  • befriend, not fix
  • encourage, not envy
  • discuss, not debate
  • motivate, not manipulate
  • inspire, not impair
  • invite, not indict
  • sharpen, not shred
  • hurt, but still hope

I’m free to love with abandon, to serve sacrificially, to risk being a fool, and to rest in His great and glorious goodness.

I’m free to let go and become the woman God calls me to be.

Hmmm…I guess surrender really does produce growth.

Maybe it’s time to let go and live.

I’m willing. Are you?

‘Til next time,