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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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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Control Girl: What Christian Leaders are Saying!

Dear Friend,

We are just weeks away from the release of my book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. WOO HOO!! I’m so excited about this book. It’s amazing to me that I started on it with a completely empty file and a blank notebook. God gave me the idea, I took a step of faith to propose the book, and had to trust Him to fill the pages.

How faithful He was!

Over and over, God opened my eyes to truth in his Word, and guided my pen, as I wrote about a rather sensitive topic: women and their control issues! It was truly a worship-filled experience as I dug, struggled, listened, waited, and then rejoiced as God gave me just what I needed for each and every lesson. Thank you, Lord!

Endorsements

I want to share with you the endorsements listed below,which I am very, very grateful for, given by Christian leaders. Did you know that endorsements are biblical? Repeatedly in the New Testament, we see established church leaders endorsing newer leaders and commending them to the church. (Barnabas first spoke up for Paul in Acts 9:27 and then Paul repeatedly endorsed other leaders, such as in Rom. 16:1-16). This is essential because God wants us–his people–to be guarded about who we allow ourselves to be influenced by (Rom. 16:17-18). Relying on endorsements from those we trust is an important part of guarding ourselves against error.

Yet endorsements require a huge amount of time and sacrifice! I am so very thankful for each and every one of these recommendations below, given by trusted, faithful men and women of God. Thanks especially to Chris Brauns and Erin Davis for their help, as I sorted out several of the more difficult parts of this book. Their help was invaluable to me.

Know Anyone Looking for a Women’s Bible Study?

If you know of someone in church leadership, or a women’s small group leader, would you consider passing this email on to them? You could also point them to the “Control Girl” tab on my site for information about the book, a FREE downloadable discussion guide (coming soon), plus other resources related to the book.

Group leaders work tirelessly to find well-written, interesting, doctrinally sound resources for their women. (I know this because I’ve been on those committees!) I would love it if you could let your friends and leaders to know about my book, Control Girlas an excellent choice for their groups.

The book’s official release date is Jan. 27, but it is available for preorder now (here are links to AmazonChristianBook.com, and Barnes & Noble). Thanks so much, *|FNAME|*, for your help in getting the word out! I’m so thankful for this opportunity to share truth with women who long to go from “Control Girl” to “Jesus Girl”.

Warmly,


“Shannon has a wonderful ability to translate the truths of God’s Word into interactive Bible studies that speak to relevant issues women face today. Control Girl is a penetrating look at how selfishness and self- protectiveness wreck lives—and why surrender and trust are God’s life- giving pathways to true freedom and joy.”

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author and Revive Our Hearts teacher and host

“Psst . . . You there . . . the one with the control issues. I know you have a craving to control. We all do. We have since the garden of Eden, but there’s hope! In this funny, tender, and truth-telling book, Shannon Popkin peels back the layers of our control problem. If that sounds a bit like a root canal, wait until you crack the cover. In a tone that feels like coffee with a close friend, Shannon bravely goes first, letting us see the reality of her own need to control while simultaneously pointing us to the hope found in God’s Word. You will find your heart warming, your lips smiling, and your fists unclenching as Shannon leads you away from control and toward sweet surrender. A must-read for every woman east of the garden.”

Erin Davis, author, blogger, and recovering Control Girl

“Delightful. Insightful. Helpful. Popkin’s sweet blend of storytelling and Scripture helps the medicine go down. If you’re a control freak, this study is just what the doctor ordered.”

Mary A. Kassian, author of Girls Gone Wise

“In the style of Liz Curtis Higgs, Control Girl is an easy and entertaining read, yet Shannon Popkin packs a punch where we so need it if we are to be set free from the stressful habit that robs our joy and ruins our relationships!”

Dee Brestin, author of Idol Lies

“Authentic, relevant, and truth-filled, Control Girl is written especially for any woman longing for security, peace, and joy. Through her Bible-based teaching and humorous stories, Shannon reminds us God never intends us to carry around the burden of control, and instead offers us the gift of sweet surrender to him. I finished Control Girl being reminded afresh that for those who love God, there awaits the happiest Happy Ending imaginable. Hooray! Highly recommended!”

Cindy Bultema, women’s speaker, Bible teacher, and author of Red Hot Faith

“If you’ve ever struggled with control issues, read this book. With personal vulnerability, biblical depth, powerful personal illustrations, and pointed application questions, Shannon Popkin reveals how seven women of the Bible can teach us how to surrender our will to God’s design for our future. It’s ideal for personal use or for small-group studies.”

Carol Kent, speaker and author of Becoming a Woman of Influence

“Shannon gets painfully honest and to the point as she challenges all of us Control Girls to surrender that burden and experience the Happy Ending God has planned! . . . She takes us through the lives of seven women from Scripture to help us discern more readily when we are grabbing for control rather than walking in the rest that Christ provides.”

Kimberly Wagner, author of Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior and coauthor of Men Who Love Fierce Women

“No one wants to be enslaved to anger, anxiety, or fear. Yet many battle those emotions without making any headway in their struggle to fix themselves and others. In Control Girl, my longtime friend Shannon Popkin offers an alternative strategy. She shows how biblical thinking helps readers understand the conditions of their hearts so that they can find freedom in true spiritual growth through the wisdom of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. I highly recommend it.”

Dr. Chris Brauns, pastor of The Red Brick Church and author of Unpacking Forgiveness and Bound Together

“When you start out reading a book for an endorsement and it becomes your Bible study, that is a good sign. Instead of making notes about how good the book is, I found myself writing down how God was using Shannon’s words to address the heart of my own control issues. Control Girl is helping me solidify my foundation as a Jesus Girl, giving me confidence to practice surrender first and be OK with God not answering all my questions.”

Jen Ferguson, coauthor of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography

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I Returned His Christmas Gift

(An updated repost from 2013). 

I was a new wife. He was my new husband. And I returned his Christmas gift.

It was a jewelry box–one of those big wooden ones–and he spent a fortune on it. But he encouraged me to take it back if I didn’t really like it.

I thought I was being reasonable when I took his word for it and exchanged it for something I ‘needed’. But now I think I was being foolish.

In fact, if I could talk to my twenty-six-year-old self, here’s what I’d say:

“Ok, I get it. You like to shop for deals. You only buy things on sale. You feel good when you prove that money has elastic in it. And yes, money is tight right now. I get that you want to be conscientious about spending.

But here’s the thing. You weren’t the one spending. You didn’t buy jewelry box. He did.

And yes, of course he said that you could take it back. He did that because he’s a great guy. But did you see that little searching look in his eye, when you opened his gift? Did you see how he watched you, carefully measuring your reaction, as you pulled the paper away from the box? He wasn’t looking at the price tag. He was looking at you. He was loving you, and trying to please you.

Now, here’s something that you don’t yet know about yourself. You’re a Control Girl. You naturally gravitate toward wanting to control. And guess what? Gifts are one of those things in life that you can’t control. You don’t know what will be under the wrapping paper. You can’t control what he’ll buy.

That won’t stop you from trying, though. In the coming years, you will return so many gifts that your sweet husband will lose heart and quit trying so hard. He’ll just go to the store and buy whatever you circled in the sale ad, wrap it up, and hope to see you smile. But by reducing him to a circled-ad gift buyer, you stamp out some of the glowing embers of Christmas.

Here’s my advice: Keep the jewelry box. Keep the sparkle in his eye. Enjoy his choice, and let him choose how much to spend on it. Don’t be a Christmas Control Girl! Be a cheerful, grateful wife, and let yourself delight in your husband’s gift! By doing so, you’ll be a delight to him–both on Christmas Day and the days following, as well.”

Now that I’ve given my younger self some adivce, I’m thinking it might apply to my older self, as well. How about you? Are you a Control Girl at Christmas? If so, let me just say that I get you. I know you’re not trying to exasperate anyone; you’re just trying to make everything turn out right!

But let me ask you. When you clamp down on everything from who will buy what for whom to who will open what when, does this fill your family with Christmas cheer? Or does it make everybody miserable?

I’m learning that the only way to conquer my control problem is to do the opposite of taking control: surrender. To give up control, rather than lunging for it. In my soon-to-be-released book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, I talked a lot about surrendering to God, and His plans for our lives. But there’s also something to be said for surrendering to the people that we love.

When we doggedly insist on keeping the same menu or having the Christmas party at the same place as last year, the people we’re most trying to make everything “right” for–our husbands and children and cousins and aunts–are only getting frustrated and discouraged.

Christmas is a great time to practice surrendering. It’s a great time to give up control and put someone else’s wishes above your own. So what’s one thing you can let go of this Christmas? A tradition or an expectation? The guest list or the order of events? What’s one thing that you’d like to control, but won’t?

Perhaps like me, you need to rethink how you respond to your Christmas presents. Gift receiving is a great way to practice surrendering control. When you open a gift from a loved one, this Christmas, why not give in to his or her preferences?

Wear the scarf.

Read the book.

Plug in the appliance.

Delight in both the gift, and the giver. Surrender yourself to the joy of others, and you’ll find more joy for yourself, too! I should know; I’ve tried it both ways.

PS. (I have no idea what my husband will get me for Christmas this year. I haven’t even made a suggestion! But here’s one thing I know: I’m going to keep it, and enjoy it, and savor the time with him.)

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When Jesus Sends You Into a Storm

Taken from TrueWoman.com. By: Shannon Popkin

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, where a doctor told us that Cole had a rare, autoimmune skin disease. He prescribed enough medicine to get us through the week, then we left town with more questions than answers. As my husband drove, I searched on my phone for information about the disease. As the Internet swung wide the gates of data, dread flooded our hearts. This would be our life now. His life.

I kept glancing at my son in the rear-view mirror. Read more

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When He and I see it Differently

Originally posted on TrueWoman.com. 

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.

They looked great; they were bright and fun-looking. But they were also twenty dollars more than I would have paid. And they didn’t look very supportive for running, either, which was the whole point of buying new shoes.

I suspect that the selection process was heavily influenced by both my son’s enthusiasm over the shoe color and his dad’s ambition to get out of the store quickly. Neither of these, in my opinion, were good reasons to buy these particular shoes.

“I’m taking them back,” I said.

“What?” my husband said. “Then why did you ask me to take him shopping in the first place?”

I then listed out all of the reasons these shoes were a bad idea. Apparently he hadn’t seen the way inferior shoes tend to cave under the pressure of a twelve-year-old boy running. And perhaps he wasn’t aware that our son would claim any shoe felt supportive if it was the right color. I was quite certain that these shoes wouldn’t even last the full season. I’d have to replace them in a month.

None of these reasons, however, won my husband over to my viewpoint. He just kept voicing frustration over the wasted shopping trip.

When We Disagree

Ken’s head tends to be clear of all of the worries and concerns that fill mine. He doesn’t fret over possibilities the way I do or extrapolate into the future. He just steps out into the wild blue yonder and buys shoes without even considering that the kid trying them on might be pretending that they fit well. Crazy, right?

I often feel that Ken’s clear perspective needs to be clouded up with a few of my concerns…

Read the rest here.

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When “Submit” Feels like a Dirty Word

I’m guest blogging at “The Peaceful Wife Blog” today. Thanks to April for letting me contribute this post. 🙂 April’s first book, The Peaceful Wifewas published early this year by Kregel Publications (which is also my publisher!).

When -Submit- Feels like a Dirty WordGod doesn’t use swear words; I know this full well. But if I’m honest, the word “submit”—which God uses often when He instructs wives—sometimes feels like a dirty word.

Picture this. You’re at the mall, and you see a husband and wife who are obviously having an argument. Their body language is terse and their tone is sharp. The wife looks frustrated and angry, as she folds her arms across her chest and turns her back toward her husband. Should you, at that moment, approach this wife and suggest she submit to her husband?

I know I wouldn’t. But this is exactly what God does in his Word. When I am the angry, terse wife, crossing my arms—convinced that my husband just doesn’t understand, God whispers softly, “submit.” But often, as that word clanks against my iron will, I bristle. It feels degrading and insulting. I’m to submit, simply because I’m a woman? How can that be right?

God’s Curse Word

There’s another word which God did speak as a curse over women: the word “desire”. After Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God told her, “Your desire will be for your husband.” (Gen. 3:15, emphasis mine.) This word always baffled me because I thought it meant a sexual desire. I figured if I had more of that kind of desire, my husband would not consider it a curse.

Then one day, I was painting my laundry room and listening to John Piper preach asermon on the curse of Genesis 3. He used parallel language from the next chapter in Genesis to explain that this word “desire” was a desire for control[i]. God was telling the woman that she would be cursed with a desire to control her husband. Now that did make sense to me.

With paintbrush in hand, I realized that I, too, as a daughter of Eve, am cursed with the desire to control my husband. For me, this was like finally—after a lifetime of suffering its effects—being diagnosed with a degenerative disease that had been passed on to me from generations back. Suddenly all of my symptoms made sense. I always wondered why I was so testy, obstinate, and even surly toward this man I love so desperately. Now I understood. As a daughter of Eve, I am infected with a desire to control him.

That day that I was painting the laundry room was over a decade ago. I’d love to say that understanding my “condition” has healed my desire for control, but this is not the case. As long as I live under the curse, I will struggle with a desire to get my hooks into the people I love. I have, however, gotten better at recognizing my desire for control.

Recognizing my Desire for Control

Recently, my husband and I were driving to our daughter’s swim meet. In the back seat was our angry tween, who was wishing he could be at a birthday party with his friends. This privilege had been revoked because of his attitude (which wasn’t improving).

I’ve noticed that my desire for control seeps beyond the bounds of marriage and into all of my relationships—especially parenting. And especially when my child is being rebellious and rude. As we drove down the highway, I felt the desire for control rising up in me. “His insolence is going to destroy his life,” I said to myself. “I’ve got to stop him. I’ve got to do something right now!”

And so I did. My swelling desire for control erupted in the form of white-hot, spewing words. My voice was loud and commanding. My words had manipulative undercurrents and harsh overstatements. I lectured. I shamed. I warned. I demanded. I gave full vent to my desire for control.

And how did my son respond? He recoiled. He folded his arms in anger and said he didn’t care. There was stubbornness, not remorse, in his tone.

Just as I began to launch round two of my lecture, my husband cut in. “Shannon, stop.”

Stop? I couldn’t stop. I shouldn’t stop! I ignored him and kept going.

“Shannon, stop.” Quietly, but forcefully, my husband put his hand on mine. “Stop. It. You’re making it worse,” he said quietly.

“No, I’m not! He needs to hear this!” I said in a loud whisper. But my husband wouldn’t back down. He calmly assured me that he would handle it. For the rest of the drive, he wanted me to be quiet. Then when we arrived, he wanted me to get out of the car and let him deal with the situation. Alone. Without me.

Well that pretty much felt like a total loss of control, especially for a Control Girllike me. My arguments were burning a hole in my heart. My son needed my correction. He needed it right now! From my dark corner in the passenger seat of our car, I cried out silently to God. Was He seeing this?

Just then, the word “submit” flashed through my conscience. It’s in moments like these that this word feels like a swear word to me. It seems degrading for God to ask me to defer to my husband. Especially when I know I’m right!

Yet I’ve learned that it rarely feels like I’m living out the curse in the moment I’m doing so. Taking control often seems right and good. And submitting to my husband feels quite wrong.

A Moment of Choice

Oh how I wanted to overrule my husband and continue my lecture. My heart was screaming with the desire for control. But rather than giving in to myself, I gave in to God.

I always picture yielding to God as a quiet, peaceful experience; yet it is some of the most grueling, challenging work of my Christian life. Yes, I was sitting quietly on my side of the car that night, but inside I was doing battle with my flesh! Stepping from that car and deferring to my husband was my way of passionately yielding to God—trusting that His ways are better than mine.

Fifteen minutes later, as I sat in the bleachers overlooking the pool, I saw what I couldn’t see back in the car. My husband was right. I had been making it worse. My heart had deceived me again. My words had been like a harsh, driving wind, causing my son to hold tighter to his pride and belligerence.

Just as a tear of remorse trickled down my cheek, my son slid onto the bleacher seat beside me. He put his arm around my shoulders and gave me a warm squeeze, saying, “I’m sorry, mom. I was so wrong. I see that now. Will you forgive me?”

Ladies First

Have you ever noticed that the wife’s instructions to respectfully submit to her husband come before her husband’s instructions in the Bible? Since he is named the leader, I would expect his instructions to come first, but it’s the opposite. (Eph. 5:22-25, Col. 3:18-19, I Pet. 3:1-7). Why is that?

I think it’s because my husband can’t lead me if I’m not willing to submit. Ken can shut down my lecture, yes. But he can’t make me submit to him. He can only invite me to. But when I do, God blesses me. Sometimes I even get the warm squeeze and apology that I was hoping for in the first place. And even when my husband doesn’t handle a situation with wisdom, or things don’t turn out well after I defer to him, God uses submission to reverse the curse—this wretched desire I have to control everything—in my heart.

Submitting to my husband is exactly what my controlling heart screams for menot to do. So when I submit (which is the opposite of taking control), I break the curse’s hold on me. I free myself to be healed of sin’s effects. I invite peace and restoration to my relationships. This is what God has in mind when He asks me to submit to my husband. He knows that my desire is to control, and He’s gently leading me to do the opposite.

Is “submit” a degrading curse word against women? Hardly. It’s actually the way that wives like me can break free from the curse, and be healed.

Read more from the Peaceful Wife blog here.

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Growing Children; Controlling Mom

By: Shannon Popkin, published on the True Woman blog:

160302-growing-children“Sit down so I can comb your hair.”

“Don’t touch the pretties.”

“Stay in your bed till Mommy comes to get you.”

These are things I said repeatedly to my children when they were little. But now that my kids are all taller than me, it would be strange to still insist on doing their hair. It would be insulting to tell my teens to not to touch breakables or to stay in bed till I came.

I was a good mom of littles. I kept little fingers away from electrical outlets and little feet away from roads. I oversaw every bite of food my kids ate and every show they watched. I trained them to say, “Yes, Mommy,” and come when I called.

I was really good at being in control of my little kids. What I’ve wrestled with far more is giving up control as they grow.

Two Categories for Control

In his parenting book Losing Control & Liking It, Dr. Tim Sanford draws a line dividing all of life into two categories:

  1. What We Can Control
  2. What We Can’t

Really the only thing that fits into Category 1 is me. I can control my own actions, responses, and attitudes. But everything else belongs in Category 2. I can’t ultimately control what other people do or what happens around me.

Dr. Sanford suggests that good parents HOLD and FOLD, respectively. For Category 1, we should HOLD responsibility for ourselves—for our actions and reactions. But for Category 2 (everything else), we must learn to FOLD our hands and trust God rather than trying to control what we ultimately can’t (pp. 60–70).

I would add that that these responses change as our children grow. Here’s a good rule of thumb: When my child is small enough to hold, it is good and right to HOLD responsibility for her and control her environment. The smaller my child, the more I must control what she eats, wears, or touches. She is my responsibility!

But gradually as my child becomes too big to hold or pick up, it’s time to transition to FOLDing. I’ll always have influence over my child, but little by little I must entrust him or her back to God. And when my children are fully grown, I must give up control completely. Trying to control what I ultimately cannot will only make everyone (me included) miserable.

Straddling the Line

When I shared this concept at a recent retreat, a woman asked, “But what if your child is nine?”

I laughed. The ages of seven to twelve are years of great transition. Yes, your child might still sit on your lap, but no, you shouldn’t scold him if he crosses the street without holding your hand. Picture yourself straddling the line between Category 1 and Category 2 during these transition years. Sometimes you’ll need to HOLD; other times you’ll have to FOLD. You’ll need wisdom from God as you parent your particular child on how much independence to introduce when.

For me, this process of being completely responsible for my newborn babies to relinquishing more control each year has been extremely painful and difficult. Giving my daughter keys to her first car seemed like something only a crazy mother would do! And sometimes letting my son walk out of the house in the clothes he’s chosen seems even crazier! But trying to control like I did when they were small would drive us all crazy.

God offers another way.

First Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I love that this chapter of 1 Peter is written to people who “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (v. 2), because that is how I see myself. I am a mom, shepherding my little flock of children, who belong to God. And yes, this role creates a lot of anxiety in me!

But rather than rolling His eyes when I start fretting over my child’s grades or friendships or habit of throwing clothes on the floor, God leans down with an invitation. He says, “Why don’t you fling those burdens up on my back?” And why should I do this? Because God cares for me. His intentions toward me are tender and kind when He reminds me that I was never intended to struggle under my burden of trying to control my child’s entire life.

As my children grow, I have less control, but God does not! I can FOLD my hands and entrust them to Him, knowing He’s the good, caring Shepherd who has everything under control.

What anxieties do you struggle with related to your children? Is God asking you to lay down some burden of control that you aren’t meant to carry? Thank God that He is the Good Shepherd who tenderly cares for both you and your kids.

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