Control Girl Quiz

Are you a Control Girl?

First of all, you should be commended on your willingness to engage the question. Many women  avoid it.

For years, I saw myself as having the best of intentions. I took matters into my own hands because I cared so much! I was invested! The last word I would have chosen to describe myself was “controlling”. Besides, nobody else told me outright that I was controlling–not even my husband. Yet, there were signs….

  1. Do you struggle with anger? Do you erupt when something doesn’t go your way? Do you lose your cool over small, insignificant interruptions—either disruptions to your afternoon commute or your life trajectory? Do you inwardly (or outwardly) seethe at people who make your life difficult or who disagree with you—even over small things?
  2. Do you struggle with worry or anxiety? Are you gripped with fear over the future? Do you fret about your own safety or the safety of those you love? Do you obsess over small concerns because you’re worried about where they will lead? Do you tend to project into the future, consider all of the “what if’s”, and overreact?
  3. Are you irritated by other controlling people? Is there a controlling person in your life who deeply frustrates you? Are you more bothered by this person than others? Do you react in a passive aggressive manner when a controlling person gives you no choice or violates your “turf”?
  4. Do friends or family members send subtle hints? Do others give tactful clues that they’d like you to back off?  Do they ever roll their eyes and say, “I got it, the first six times, Mom!” or “I can handle it,”? If we cornered the people who love you most, would they privately admit that you are pushy or overbearing?
  5. Do they call you the “Food Nazi”? Or the “Seatbelt Nazi”? Or the “(Fill-in-the-blank) Nazi?” Do other people resist your efforts to get them to do what is in their best interest? Are there people at work, home, or in your community who might say that you micromanage, overstep, or insist on your way?
  6. Does your husband feel disrespected by you? Does he get angry because you interrupt? Does he get frustrated when you give suggestions or tell him how to do it? Does he often become sullen, explosive, or withdrawn? Has he opted out of parenting because you’ve corrected him so much? Has he started spending more time out than in?
  7. Do your kids feel like you’re nagging them? Do your young children have closed hearts toward you? Do your grown children withhold information or try to avoid your questions? Do your kids bristle when you come in the room?
  8. Are you undisciplined? Do you regularly eat too much, spend too much, stay up too late, or spend too much time on social media? Are you constantly late? Do you struggle to live within any sort of boundary lines or limits?
  9. Are you rigidly perfectionistic? Do you obsess over every calorie, every cent, or every minute spent? Are you a perfectionist with your home, your car, your appearance, or your work? Do you feel peace, only when you have everything under control? Do others think of you as rigid and inflexible?
  10. Do you keep hidden agendas? Do you tend to conceal information or only tell part of the story, to give yourself leverage? Do you use information to manipulate people? Do you use relational equity to your advantage?
  11. Do you have a lifestyle of “image control”? Do guard yourself against hurt by trying to control of what people think of you? Do you throw yourself into your work, ministry, or appearance to ward off feelings of worthlessness? Do you put up walls in relationships or limit yourself to superficiality?
  12. Does God seem far away? Do you picture God as distant or uncaring? Are you suspicious of His motives? Do you think of Him as too indifferent, apathetic, or disinterested to concern Himself with the things that matter to you?
Are you a Control Girl? Take the Quiz to find out! #ControlGirl Click To Tweet

12 Week Series

So, how’d you do? Did you answer yes to some? Most? Do you think you might be a Control Girl?

Over the next twelve Mondays I will publish a post unpacking each of these twelve questions. I hope you’ll check back weekly. Also, over the next twelve Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series. If you’re interested in having your story told (we can keep it anonymous), use the contact form to get in touch with me.

If, as you engage these series, you conclude that you are indeed a Control Girl, don’t despair. I have good news for you:

No woman has to be a Control Girl.

Yes, women tend to have a bent toward wanting control, but God offers us another option. Another path. He invites us to a life of surrender. To say, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Control Girls of the Bible

My new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible, is a study of seven Control Girls of the Bible who struggled with control in the same way we do—they pushed for their own agendas, tried to make everything turn out according to their plans, and made everybody miserable in the process.

As we watch God interacting with these Control Girls of the Bible, we gain perspective on our own control struggles. Just like back then, God is in control and we aren’t. He invites us to live accordingly.

Thanks for taking the quiz and entering to win! Let’s go from Control Girl to Jesus Girl, shall we?

 

 

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Sharing my Book on Maranda’s “Where You Live” TV Show

It was so fun to be on the WOTV4Women program, “Where you Live” with Maranda yesterday! I’m thrilled with the opportunity I had to share about my book with my community, and wanted to share the experience with you!

Thanks, Maranda! Thanks Wood TV 8!!

Also, many, many thanks to all of the women, both in Grand Rapids, and nation wide, who have been opening their hearts to the message of “Control Girl”. For more information on the book, go to www.ControlGirl.com.

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Control

Control.

The desire for it wells up from somewhere very deep inside of me. I crave it. I feel compelled to lunge for it; to do whatever it takes to have it. I feel an urgency to take control, wondering what might happen if I don’t!

And so I go for it. I leap for it. I run for it. I grasp it as tightly as I can and clutch it with all my might.

Then without comment, control slips through my fingers like a mirage. It flutters like a leaf, blown upward into heaven.

I see now that it was all a tease. I never did have a grasp on that blasted control.

This makes me angry and frustrated. I shout at it to get right back here, and jab my finger at the ground in front of me. Then I whimper like a child because I need it so badly. But control is not mine to be had. It doesn’t belong in my hands. It belongs in God’s.

I look up to search His face, wondering why He has taken the control I so deeply long for. Is He taunting me? Is He Indifferent and aloof? Does he even see me all the way down here, beneath his throne?

I wave my hands frantically, to let him know that I need Him to send it back down. I’m ready to hold on more tightly, now. I won’t let go this time.

There’s movement. He sees me! He’s stooping low. For a moment, I’m terrified, and then I see kindness in His eyes. He whispers something into my soul and I lean forward to hear it. You were not designed to carry the burden of control. Won’t you let me carry it for you?

And then He shows me His hands. His massive, wise, holy hands. They are good, God hands.

And at first glance I didn’t notice, but now I do! He’s holding something, there. Are they threads? They’re translucent yet as strong as steel.

I look closer and see a trillion plotlines being woven together in such complexity and beauty, such that I’ve never laid eyes on. His strong fingers are twisting and tying and looping the details together—details of people who are known and loved by Him—in intricate patterns so that each thread moves the story along toward a conclusion that fills my heart with such joy I can hardly breathe.

I can’t see the ending; I can’t see the full pattern. But I just know that it is good.

“It is very good,” I hear Him say.

But when I turn my eyes back to His face, He is gone. Hidden from sight. Just like that.

It was only a glimpse, but it was enough.

I am settled now, at peace with what I can’t see and what I don’t know. I no longer feel the angst in my soul, pressing me to take and keep and have control.

He’s in control, so I don’t have to be.

This was first published on KateMotaung.com as a “Five Minute Friday” post–a challenge for writers to share their five-minutes-only writing. Come read what 98+ other bloggers have said about “Control”–or better yet, join them!  Five Minute Friday: Control

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A “Birth Announcement” for my Book!

It’s here! It got to hold my book in my hands for the first time this week!

It feels like an eternity ago, when I first announced my book’s “due date” to you, as I compared writing a book to having a baby. And now, as I held my brand new book, I felt a bit like a new mom, counting all of the fingers and toes! I checked the back cover… I looked at the spine… I took a ridiculous number of pictures and shared them on Instagram…. I held my book lovingly and felt its weight in my hands…

What a labor of love this book has been, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Here’s a facebook video of me, sharing a little about the book:

 

I’d love for you to consider Control Girl, either for yourself or your group. We have lots of free resources, including a FREE Discussion Guide, for you at ControlGirl.com. (Use the dropdown box under “Control Girl”.)

If you’d like to help me spread the word about the book, here are some things you could do:

  • Share the video or this link with a friend!
  • Share this post, or a link to the book on social media or via email! You could say, “I’m interested in this book and thought you might be, too.”
  • Pass information about the book to your women’s ministry director. Please let her know I’d be happy to answer questions, or help in any way I can!
  • Invite me to speak at your church or your group. I’d love to share the message of Control Girl with your group!
  • Pray! God is ultimately in control of how far and wide this book goes, and He loves it when we pray for Him to move!

My ultimate hope, as I write and speak on the topic of control, is for women to be taken with Jesus. I long for us to be enticed with the sweetness of surrender (rather than bound by the futility and frustration of trying to control everything)! My passion is for us to go from Control Girls to Jesus Girls.

God is in control! That means we don’t have to be. Isn’t that good news???

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Control Girl

Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes & Noble. (Of these three, the only one that has the book in stock is Barnes & Noble, listed at $9.85–which is also the lowest price right now.) It released on January 27, 2017.

Little fights with your husband and kids. Unhappiness when things don’t match your version of perfect. Tension, anger, fear, anxiety–it all begins with a heart that craves control. When your perspective of how life should go replaces God’s, you doom your quest for security, peace, and joy before it even starts.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Join Shannon as she shares what she has discovered about her own control struggles and about God from studying seven Control Girls in the Bible. Whether it was Eve’s desire to know instead of trust, Sarah’s inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah’s controlling hand on her family’s future, each of these women’s stories contain warnings and lessons for us today.

Learn how you too can lay down this burden of trying to control everything and find rest in surrendering to the One who truly is in control.


How the Book is Arranged

This book is designed the book to work well, both for the individual, and for groups. (See a note to leaders.) Control Girl divides each chapter into “lessons”, which allow the reader on a time budget to engage a complete train of thought as she reads the chapters part-by-part. Each lesson begins with a correlating Bible passage, and ends with several application questions along with one truth from the lesson to meditate on. (Download FREE meditation cards here.)

There are nine chapters in the book:

  • 1 Path of a Control Girl
  • 2 Eve: It Looked Good to Me
  • 3 Sarah: It’s Up to Me
  • 4 Hagar: Out from Under Her Control
  • 5 Rebekah: Standing in for God
  • 6 Leah: Invisible and Unloved
  • 7 Rachel: When She Has More
  • 8 Miriam: Taking the Lead
  • 9 Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Resources

Group Discussion Guide for Leaders

Leaders, thanks so much for considering this book for your group’s study! Please consider downloading the FREE Discussion Guide  which will help draw your women into meaningful discussion centered on God’s Word, as you work through the book together.

You might want to consider making this a ten week study (with one week of introduction) or a nine week study if your group needs no introductory week.


Reflections On Surrender

Reflections on Surrender (just released Dec. 2016!) is an adult coloring book, filled with truth about control, ourselves, and God–messages that closely correlate with Control Girl. While you don’t have to work through the Bible study to enjoy the coloring book, the two do compliment each other nicely.

The original artwork in Reflections on Surrender was done by  Janyre Tromp
(who, by the way, was also the editor for Control Girl). We hope that as you add color and design to the artwork, you’ll also soak your heart in the truth on each page.


Let Shannon Help You with Kick-off!

West Michigan groups, Shannon would love to come help kick off your study, or come for a Q&A, sometime. Long distance groups, Shannon is happy to consider coming to speak for your group, or using Skype or Facebook Live to connect live. (More speaking info here).

Shannon’s Control Girl Retreat is also a great way to kick off the study for your group. (Your group would pick up the study at Chapter 2 after the retreat.). Please connect with her if you’re interested in any of these options. You can either email her directly at   shannon@shannonpopkin.com or using the comment form below.


Meditation Cards

At the end of each lesson in the book is a “for meditation” section. Our hope in providing these truths and verses, is to help women build a bridge between what they say is true (God is in control) and how they actually live (as though they have to control everything).

But we want to make it easier yet! By using eaither the “Control Girl” tab at the top of this page, or clicking here, please find a set of  FREE downloadable meditation cards, arranged by lesson (sampler pack available now). You can print these as 4×6 cards or photos, or you can share and save them digitally–all for free!

Also on this page are some guidance and ideas for how to use the cards.


 2 x 4 Inch Labels

In the introduction for the book, Shannon suggests keeping a journal of your personal responses to the application questions at the end of each lesson.

Just for fun, here are some labels that you can print off for the cover of your group’s journals (or feel free to use them however you like!). 

Here’s a pdf that will work for Avery (or off brand) 2 x 4 inch labels, 10 per page:

2 x 4 Inch Labels Control Girl to Jesus Girl 2

(Or save the jpg above to print a single label).

 

 


Thank You!

Dear Friends,

Thanks for considering Control Girlalong with our various other companion resources. My hope and desire is that each of us might leave behind the weak-hearted, selfish ways of the Control Girl, and little-by-little, become Jesus Girls instead.

Warmly,

For release information about the book and occasional updates from Shannon–along with subscriber-only freebies and giveaways, sign up here:



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Top 5 Posts of 2016

Hi friends. Thanks so much for keeping up with me, here on my blog! It’s been an exciting year. Though I may have done fewer updates here on my site, I’ve been busy with…

  • Speaking! I had the opportunity to speak at 20 different events, retreats, conferences, and groups in 2016!! I shared truth, made new friends, and learned so much. I’m thankful for each opportunity God allowed. (For more information on my speaking ministry, go here.)
  • Blogging! I am so blessed to be a regular contributer for TrueWoman.com. I can’t think of a better place to connect with like-minded readers, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this amazing writing team. I also enjoyed writing for the Dove Parenting Blog (which I’ve currently stepped back from, due to time restraints).
  • Graduation! Our oldest daughter, Lindsay, graduated from high school and just completed her first semester at Liberty University. We’re so happy for her and proud of all of her accomplishments! We wouldn’t want it any way, but this beautiful girl has left a big, gaping hole in our home. We’re soaking up the time she has left home over Christmas break.

So…

I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say 2016 has been a full year for our family! I’m so thankful for all of the opportunities God has given me to serve Him at home, in my church and community, and through my writing and speaking ministry. (If you’re interested in receiving my once-in-a-while updates, sign up here!)


As promised, here are my Top 5 Posts from 2016. Thanks so much for reading!

5. I’m a Hypocrite

“We’re such hypocrites,” my son told my husband quietly.

He said ‘we’, but he was really talking about me.

Earlier that evening, when the kids were swimming in the pool, I walked into the laundry room and said, “Grrrrr!!!! There is water all over in here! Who dripped all over the floor?”

Turns out, it was my son’s friend… (Read the rest here.)


4. The College Goodbyes I Wasn’t Ready For

 The College GoodbyesI Wasn't Ready ForIn some ways, I’ve been preparing for her to go to college for years. So why did I feel so unprepared? For instance…

…I wasn’t ready, on move-in day, to wake up with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

…I wasn’t ready for the stress rising in me because all of the emails about orientation had gone to her, which meant I had to rely on her for information (which doesn’t feel natural to me).

…I wasn’t ready, as she walked the sidewalk leading to the freshmen cookout, to drive past and see the brief look of apprehension flicker across her face. I wasn’t ready for how this would affect me, or the emotion it would invoke. (Read the rest here.)


3. When He and I See it Differently

160418-when-he-and-iMy husband was nice enough to take our sixth grader shopping for running shoes recently. But the shoes they came home with were not shoes I would have bought….

“I’m taking them back,” I said. (Read the rest here.)


2. Trouble, We’ve Been Expecting You

160711-trouble

Hello, Trouble. We were expecting you. Come right in and make yourself at home. Will you be staying awhile? We thought so.

We’ve heard a lot about you. We’ve seen you visit our friends’ homes. To be honest, we’ve been dreading your arrival for a while now… (Read the rest here.)


1. When Jesus Sends You Into a Storm

160509-storm

When my son was ten, he was diagnosed with a rare skin disease, literally an hour before we left on vacation. That morning he had pulled up his basketball shorts to show me the sores on his legs, which he hadn’t thought to mention earlier. But now they were hurting enough to keep him from playing soccer with the neighbors and big enough to cause my jaw to drop.

I rushed him to an urgent care facility… (Read the rest here.)


Thanks so much for reading, for your support,  and for prayers! Thanks for letting me speak into your life, during 2016. May the Lord give you deep, settled hope, as you face 2017 with a confident smile on your face, knowing that He is in control.

Please let me know if there is some way that I can serve you or your church. Again, if you’re interested in staying updated (and also receiving some freebies and giveaways!), you can sign up to receive once-in-a-while emails from me, here:




 

 

 

 

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Mary’s Exemplary Faith in God’s Strange Timing

When [Jesus’] mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18).

Notice that God waited until after Mary was betrothed to cause her to be “with child.” But God didn’t wait until after Mary and Joseph had come together. Pretty precise timing, right? And pretty awful timing for a young couple trying to maintain an honorable reputation.

Think of it.

If Mary had become pregnant after she was married, neither her reputation nor Joseph’s would have been affected. But at that point if Mary had tried to explain that her baby was from God, even Joseph would have thought she was crazy. She might have even doubted it herself!

And if the pregnancy had occurred before the betrothal, only Mary would have been affected. But without Joseph by her side as a character witness, it would have been doubly hard for anyone—us included—to believe that this baby was from God.

I think God had our faith in mind when He arranged the timing of this story. He made sure that this happened to a couple, not just a young girl. In His wisdom and kindness, God was providing tangible evidence and witnesses so that thousands of years later we would hear and believe that His Son truly was born to a virgin, just as was prophesied (Matt. 1:23).

But still. This was terrible timing for a teenage girl.

Mary’s Fearlessness

Mary was in a very vulnerable situation. She had no control over what Joseph would think, believe, or do. She couldn’t control how her parents would react or how the community would respond. Women convicted of immorality in those days were stoned (John 8:4–5). The community would gather around the woman, pick up rocks, and throw them at her!

Obviously, this pregnancy could have caused Mary an enormous amount of anxiety and agitation. However, Mary was fearless. How do I know this? Two reasons: Mary left town. And she viewed her pregnancy as God’s favor, not His curse.

She Left Her Reputation to God

Immediately after the angel told Mary about her impending pregnancy, Luke 1:39 says that Mary “arose and went with haste to the hill country” to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Can you picture Mary on the path leading out of town, her frame getting smaller and smaller just as all the gossip kicks up?

“Did you hear?” someone whispers. “Mary’s pregnant!”

Mary?” asks the friend, incredulously.

“I know,” says the first friend. “And she just left town.”

When I’m worried that someone might be spreading rumors about me, I don’t want to leave the room, let alone leave town! I want to stay close and manage the situation. I want to stick around for damage control. In Mary’s shoes, I imagine myself telling the angel story repeatedly to anyone who would listen.

Instead of this, Mary left town. She left her reputation in God’s hands. She was fearless.

I confess that I am often less than fearless. Unlike Mary, I obsess over what people will think or say about me or how they will react. You, too? Especially at Christmas, with all of our heightened expectations, we can get tangled up in anxiety, with fears like:

  • What will my agnostic cousin say if I read the Christmas story at our gathering?
  • What will my adult son do if I refuse to let his girlfriend stay in his room over Christmas?
  • What will my kids think if I limit gift purchases instead of loading up my credit card?
  • How will my extended family react to the idea of going to church rather than opening gifts on Christmas morning?

The woman of God is fearless, not riddled with doubt or anxiety. She leaves her reputation in God’s hands, because she knows He can manage it much better than she can. Look how God took care of Mary’s reputation. After Joseph learned about Mary’s pregnancy, and as he was contemplating what to do, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife’” (Matt. 1:20).

See? Problem solved! Mary didn’t have to run a campaign to get Joseph to marry her. In fact, she was probably already out of town (with no cell phone) when Joseph came to see it her way. She fearlessly trusted God with her reputation and her future.

She Rejoiced in Suffering

My second reason for calling Mary fearless is her demeanor during the scene when she arrives at Elizabeth’s house. We might expect an average teenage girl to burst in, wailing, “My dreams are shattered! My life is over! Elizabeth, I’m . . . I’m pregnant!”

Mary could have interpreted her pregnancy this way, but she didn’t. After being greeted by an exuberant Elizabeth (who somehow not only knew that Mary was pregnant but knew it was a good thing!), Mary did what we least expect of a teenage girl. She burst into song!

Here are some phrases from Mary’s “Magnificat” in Luke 1:

  • “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (vv. 46–47).
  • “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed” (v. 48).
  • “For he who is mighty has done great things for me” (v. 49).

Rather than being undone by the shame and sacrifice to her own personal story, Mary revels in the unfolding of God’s bigger, more glorious story—which is all about His Son! She interprets her life from this vantage point and considers this pregnancy to be God’s favor, not His curse.

Again, I confess that I don’t always maintain Mary’s perspective. When my dreams are shattered, my soul often doesn’t immediately magnify the Lord. When I tell a cousin or friend about my struggles, I don’t often (ever) sing about how “he who is mighty has done great things for me.” It’s hard to think of my trials as evidences of God’s favor. But actually, I think they are.

This is far easier to see, when I look back in life. The things that brought pain or heartache are also the things that God used to draw my attention to Him. In the absence of struggle, I’m far more tempted to put myself at the center of my story rather than connecting my story to God.

Mary was newly pregnant when she arrived at Elizabeth’s house. She didn’t have years or even months to gain perspective. Almost immediately, she lifted her eyes above the pain and sacrifice to her own personal story and considered it all from God’s perspective. She rejoiced over the role she got to play in God’s story, as the mother of God’s Son. Indeed all generations have called her blessed. And she was blessed to have this perspective.

My Perspective

This Christmas, God has inserted some challenges and difficulties into my life’s storyline, and I’m guessing He’s done the same for you. So how will we respond? Will we cower in fear and worry about the future? Will we obsess over what people think? Will we try to do damage control? Or will we be fearless like Mary and revel in the fact that God is inviting us to play a role in His story?

When God ordained the specific and unique timing of Mary’s pregnancy, He had our faith in mind. And in the same way, God often has the faith of other people in mind when He inserts difficulties into our lives. When we fearlessly leave our futures and reputations in God’s hands as Mary did—rejoicing even in the midst of suffering—we point others to Jesus and make our stories all about Him.

What are you worrying about today? Are you obsessing over what people think or running ahead to do damage control? What is one way you will entrust God with your reputation and future? Consider your hardship from God’s perspective. How might this difficulty be used to point others to Jesus?


This post first appeared on the True Woman blog, a ministry of Revive Our Hearts.


For more information on my Bible study, Control Girl, which releases in January, or if you’re a leader considering this resource for your group, please check out all of my free resources here.

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Were You A Christmas Control Girl?

With Christmas just behinds us, perhaps it’s a good time to consider whether we behaved like a Control Girl this year.

For me, Christmas often brings out the worst.

Every year, when I flip the calendar to December, I get caught up in making Christmas turn out “right.” It’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but knowing this only causes me to have heightened expectations about how everything should look and taste and be. Rather than visions of sugar plums, I have Pinterest pictures dancing in my head driving me to new ideals for decorating, gift-wrapping, and treat-making.

Without meaning to, I evolve into a “Christmas Control Girl” who makes my family think it’s anything but the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Controlling Christmas

There is such irony in this, especially when I consider the first Christmas. For Mary, nothing was turning out “right”—at least not humanly speaking. But then Mary was human! She was a normal teenage girl with plans for her future and dreams of how everything should go. And just like the rest of us, Mary could have been a Control Girl.

In my upcoming book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women of the Bible, I investigated what God’s Word has to say about the struggle women often have with control. As I studied the stories of seven women in the Bible—which is ultimately a story about God—I was surprised to note the way these women were making the story all about them!

Sarah wanted a baby. Hagar wanted freedom. Rebekah wanted to control the future. Rachel and Leah wanted to outdo each other. And Miriam wanted to be honored. In each instance, a woman was contending for her own purposes rather than surrendering her story and her family to God’s greater, overarching purposes.

Mary could have been like the rest of these Bible women. She could have clung to her own small-minded ideals and plans for her family and her future. She could have tried to control even the Christmas story.

Just think of it.

When the angel arrived with news of her impending pregnancy, Mary could have become stubborn and feisty, saying, “Oh, no, I’m not having a baby. I’m planning my wedding! WED-ding. You got that, Mr. Gabriel?”

Or she could have become fretful and agitated, pacing back and forth, saying, “What is my mother going to say? What will my cousin say? Oh, no! What will Joseph say? What am I gonna do . . . what am I gonna doooo? Don’t tell me to calm down!”

Or she could have taken a manipulative, damage-control approach, saying, “Joseph, let’s get married right now. If we hurry, we can make this look like a honeymoon baby. We have to! If you love me, you will.”

Later, when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, she could have been self-absorbed, saying, “Elizabeth, my life is over! All of my dreams are smashed! No, I’m not being dramatic; I’m pregnant!”

At the end of her pregnancy, as Joseph saddled up the donkey for Bethlehem, Mary could have stamped her foot, saying, “Are you kidding me? Do you see this belly? I am not going. You can go by yourself, and I’ll stay with my mother.”

Then in Bethlehem, with contractions coming, she could have been entitled and rude, saying, “Joseph, did you tell that innkeeper who I am? I am the mother of God’s Son, for crying out loud. How dare He stuff me in this stable!”

A Jesus Girl

Of course, Mary did none of these things. She was anything but a Christmas Control Girl. Instead, she was a beautiful example of a Jesus Girl. She gave up control and centered her life around Jesus.

Listen to the deep surrender in Mary’s words when she responded to Gabriel’s message. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This is remarkable, because for all the honor of being chosen for this role in God’s story, there was just as much dishonor and sacrifice to Mary’s own personal story. Her life was going to be upturned, her plans and security threatened. Yet rather than objecting or panicking or obsessing, Mary responded with sweet, trusting surrender.

The fact that she reacted this way immediately (rather than needing time to warm up to the idea) leads me to believe that this wasn’t the first time Mary had said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Turn-on-a-dime surrender doesn’t just happen. It’s cultivated over time. I’m guessing that in the weeks, months, and years leading up to this point, Mary had made a practice of saying, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

This practice is what separates Control Girls from Jesus Girls. Jesus Girls enter the day or the season with a disposition of surrender toward God. Control Girls habitually clutch their own small-minded plans for how everything should go.

Disrupted Plans

Notice that when Gabriel burst into Mary’s life, disrupting all of her plans, he called her, “O favored one” (Luke 1:28). Apparently, Gabriel saw this life-interruption as God’s favor upon Mary. And the same is true for us.

God isn’t trying to make our lives miserable when He disrupts our idea of how things should go. Like with Mary, God’s interruptions in life are often invitations to play a role in the unfolding story that centers on Jesus. He asks us to set aside our plans and let our story get swept up into the bigger story that is all about God and His people. And like Mary, we have a choice. Will we try to take back control? Or will we surrender?

Cultivating Surrender

As a woman who craves control, I’m learning that I can’t live life both ways. I can’t clamp down on my own self-focused ideals and surrender to God at the same time. I can’t give vent to my desire for control over the future and surrender my future to God. I can’t develop a habit of insisting on my own way and keep Jesus at the center. This is especially true at Christmas.

Because I have heightened expectations at Christmastime, I must be careful to enter the season with extra focus on surrender. It’s ridiculous how bent out of shape I can get over little things like how the ornaments are arranged or the orderliness of gift opening. But surrendering in these little, momentary ways can train my heart for the bigger things God might ask me to surrender.

This Christmas whether I face big interruptions to my plans or small ones, I want to avoid the mistakes other Control Girls of the Bible made. I want to keep sight of God’s bigger story, which centers on Jesus, not me. Like Mary, I want to cultivate a heart of surrender that says, “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant; let it be to me according to your word.”

This is the way to make Christmas (and every other season as well) the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Did Christmas bring out the worst in you? What heightened expectations do you need to manage or let go of in the future? Which small thing can you surrender today, which will help cultivate an attitude that says, “Yes, Lord” to whatever big thing He might ask of you?


This post first appeared on the True Woman blog, a ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

For more information on my Bible study, Control Girlwhich releases in January, or if you’re a leader, considering this resource for your group, please check out all of my free resources here.

 

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Christmas Shopping: “One for you and one…”

I was shopping at Target, when a dad entered the store with his two kids, pushing a big red cart.

The kids, who were very enthusiastic shoppers, darted over near me to look at some of the displays with bright-eyed expressions. You could tell that this dad had done a wonderful job of building up the moment.

The little girl looked like she was about six, and was very, very excited to buy a gift for her mom. She said, “Ooooh! Look, Daddy! We should get her these! Hot pink and leopard!” She held up a hat and glove set that was obviously meant for a little girl. I hid a small smile, and watched as discretely as I could from my spot over by the gloves.

The dad feigned enthusiasm and said, “Yea? You think Mommy would wear that?”

The girl looked thoughtfully back at the set she was holding up and said, “Well… would.”

“I know honey,” her dad said kindly, “but we need to think about what Mommy would like.”

A few seconds later the girl found a charm bracelet and said, “Oh, Daddy, look! It has little charms… There’s some tiny scissors! And an owl!”

Again the dad said, “But Mommy doesn’t really sew. And I’m not sure she’s into owls…”

The daughter said, “Well, it’s a nice owl. I like it.”

“Ok, let’s look over here..” said the dad, moving his eager shoppers to a different jewelry display. But a moment later, he was saying, “Uh… well… that one’s just a little loud for Mommy.”

Last thing I saw, before their cart rounded out of sight, was the little girl holding out a glittery tulle skirt from the girls’ section of the store. And the dad was saying, “Honey, that’s just a little small for Mommy.”

I had so much fun chuckling to myself over this little girl’s enthusiasm for the things that she liked. But then, as they drifted out of earshot, I realized what I had been doing the whole time: Looking at scarves and gloves and earrings that I liked. I was enjoying the pretty things and wondering if I should put a few in my basket–not for those on my list, but for me.

I had come in to the store to purchase some gloves for the homeless shelter our church is donating to, but how quickly I had deviated to my own wishlist. My sister and I laugh about the way we shop for others (and often each other) with our own tastes in mind, saying, “one for you, and one for me,” as we put duplicates into the cart.

It’s so easy to make Christmas about me–my wishes, my tastes, and my hopes and plans for our family. It irritates me that my husband just wants a nap. I irks me that my kids don’t want me to take their picture. And it bothers me that no one appreciates just how hard I’ve worked to make our Christmas celebration match the Pinterest images dancing through my head.

But these reactions of mine indicate how far I’ve drifted from Christmas. Christmas was the day our Lord Jesus veiled his glory and became a man. Christmas was the day he humbly emptied himself and took the form of a servant. Our servant.

How then, can I celebrate Christmas if I’m focusing on my own interests? How can I celebrate Jesus when I insist on my own agenda? These are the opposite of celebrating Christmas.

As we spend the next few days shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping, may we truly celebrate Christmas. May we reflect Jesus, our Lord, as we, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than myself…“, looking not to our “own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phillipians 2:4-7)

(an updated post from 2012)

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Reflections on Surrender

Just in time for Christmas!

Reflections on Surrender is an adult coloring book, filled with truth about control, ourselves, and God–messages that closely correlate with my soon-to-be released book, Control Girl. While you don’t have to work through the Bible study to enjoy the coloring book, we thought it might be nice to offer them as compliments to each other.

“God never intended you to carry the burden of trying to control everything. Though most of us would agree God is in control, we find ourselves living as if he needed a little assistance from us. Let us entice you to a different perspective.

Inside these pages, you’ll be invited to surrender to an all-powerful, loving God. As you find a restful place to color and reflect on the truths contained here, you’ll find peace soaking into your very soul.”

The original artwork in Reflections on Surrender was done by  Janyre Tromp (who, by the way, was also the editor for Control Girl). Janyre and I hope that as you add color and design to the artwork, you’ll also soak your heart in the truth on the page.

Special Pricing for Groups:

If you’re interested in buying a lot of these books for your group, or as gifts, please contact me in the form below or at shannon@shannonpopkin.com. The price on Amazon is $9.99. However, I can offer you a rate of $5.99/book if you buy 10 or more, and $4.99 if you buy 20 or more. Thanks so much for your interest!

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