My Plans < His Plans… Confessions of a Control Freak

I have a confession to make, I can be a bit of a control freak.

(I just heard some of you chuckle, you know who you are.)

I have a tendency to like things a certain way. I am a planner and it’s important to me that I know what’s going to happen next and exactly how it’s going to happen. I think I know what is best so, I have a tendency to want to make sure it goes a certain way…my way, to be exact.

If I am in control, I am also able to know what is coming next and how to handle it. Right? It makes sense.

But here is the truth. I am not in control, and either are you. Believing we are is a lie from the enemy.

In my first blog post, I mentioned John 10:10 and how our enemy, the devil wants to kill, steal and destroy everything in our life. He wants us to believe we are in control of our lives because when he achieves that he can steal away all the plans God has for us. He can destroy us from ever experiencing what it says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 But what do God’s plans have to do with fear? Oh my friend, EVERYTHING.

From where I sit, God’s plans have been SO incredibly different than my own and it’s in that place of fear I have learned to surrender my plans for His to do the very thing He has called me to do. To accomplish that calling every day without being overcome by fear, anxiety and worry, I have to be totally surrendered to Him.

Last week I talked about overcoming fear with peace and how Philippians 4:6-7 became my mantra through some really challenging experiences. If you have not read that post, you may want to go check it out here. The enemy would love nothing more than to keep you paralyzed in your fear than have you walking in perfect peace.

But fear is just the emotional reaction to the real root of the issue. If we dig deeper we’ll see the true root of all of this is not fear…it’s a lack of trust or to put it bluntly, a need for control.

Our fear is based in our need for control because when we are in a place where we cannot physically see or know our outcome it produces fear.

For years, people spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over my life. It was said with such frequency to my husband and I it almost became our running joke. When and who would say it to us next.

Well, the joke was on us.

Because we had it all wrong when it came to this verse. We had totally twisted this verse to sound more like this:

“For I know the plans I have for me”, says Dawn/Chris, “plans to prosper me (the way I want to prosper, especially as it pertains to finances and work) not to harm me (no physical harm will ever come to me because this would mean God really doesn’t love, care, or have concern for me), plans to bring you hope (everything I ever hoped for will be mine, no matter the cost…my relationship with God or others) and a future (the one I have already designed in my mind that seems perfect to me.)

How’s that for a dish of truth? Anyone find themselves in the same spot?

We don’t mean to do this; some of us really do want to allow God to give us His good plans. But somewhere along the lines of life we began to believe our plans were better. But at some point we started to believe He stopped listening or He didn’t really care. Or maybe it was, whatever we wanted our plans to be didn’t work out the way we thought they should have, even though we prayed and asked Him to be in the midst of them. So we took the reigns and got back in the drivers seat.

I have been there with you in those. Believing for a certain job, in the desire for children and having a miscarriage, after miscarriage and infertility in the midst of it. In praying for someone’s behavior to change and they never did, or a circumstance to be different than it was and it felt as if I my prayers were reaching the ceiling and falling back to the ground. It was hard, really hard.

Honestly, I would still probably be thinking the same things if God hadn’t stopped me in my tracks and taught me the truth. And here it is…

We are not in control.

We like to think we are, but we are not and the tighter we clinch our fists around it the harder we make it for ourselves and for God to do what He needs to do in our lives. So how did I learn this truth, you ask? Well, I am glad you did. I learned it the hard way of course, as if any other way would have truly gotten my attention.

If you recall from last week, I was learning about overcoming my fear through a carotid body tumor. In doing so, He taught me to trade my anxiety for peace. When I had my surgery, He had a new lesson for me.

My surgery was scheduled for June 1, 2011. We showed up very early in the morning at the Vanderbilt Clinic in Nashville, TN. While I was being prepped for surgery, the doctor reassured us this would be cut and dry.

“The surgery should be no longer than 3 hours. We are going to go in and take out the tumor, use a vein from your thigh to graph the artery back together into your neck. There is nothing to worry about, we’ll be in and out in no time,” he assured us.

My mom had come in from Virginia for the surgery, so she, my husband, and my in-laws sat in the waiting room. Three hours past. Then four. And five. At about the sixth hour mark the doctors came out and told us the team was almost done and shared how things were a little different when they got into my neck then what they had thought.

“The tumor was alive and sticky,” my doctor told my family, “we couldn’t see that from the CT scan. We had to give her 4.5 units of blood and it took us a bit longer to peel the tumor from her arteries. She now has one artery instead of two and we’ll need to check in with her to make sure it stays clear. She’s also going to have quite a bit of nerve damage as we had to severe a few, but they should grow back over time.”

My stay in the hospital was originally scheduled for three days, one in the ICU and then two on the step down floor. I spent three days in the ICU and then ten more on the step down floor. Those first few days of recovery were hard. It didn’t take long for us and the doctor’s to realize the damage done from the removal could be life threatening. I could not consume food or liquid, unless the liquid had a thickening agent in it and even then it was in small doses. My voice was badly damaged, my leg on the mend. I was on a regular diet of pain meds and nutrients from an IV. Things seemed to go from bad to worse, as the doctor’s concerns grew over my inability to consume food. The talk of a feeding tube became a daily conversation and it was the very last thing I wanted, but I could not get myself to be able to eat.

Here is what I wrote on June 11, 2011 in a blog post about the experience:

“God has been teaching me a lot over the last 6 months about what it means to fully trust Him.

Before going through this surgery, I sensed Him saying to me, “Are you going to trust me in any circumstance?”

Because of that I had a feeling I’d be thrown some loops in this process. Just wasn’t sure what.

This past Wednesday, after a secondary surgery, I was having a rough morning. Swallowing was more difficult than before and my voice was in worse shape. I had a swallow study scheduled and I knew my outcome. A feeding tube was going to be in my near future. Unfortunately, I was right. The speech pathologist put me on a strict liquid diet and was recommending a feeding tube. My mom and I were devastated. We cried all the way back to my room and then sat and cried while we prayed in my room listening to some Christian worship music.

Mom had left me for a few minutes and I just felt God saying to me, “Do you still trust me Dawn?”

I did. I still do. I surrendered my plans over to him yet again and I felt a peace come over me. The same peace I spoke of before the surgery. I knew in my heart whether or not I got the feeding tube, God loved me just as much. In fact, I had came to the conclusion getting the feeding tube may be the most loving act He could do on my behalf right now.

After a few hours visiting with a friend, I tried to eat my lunch. Before I knew it I had finished my strained chicken vegetable soup and drank down a whole bottle of ensure. It was a breakthrough I know many had been praying for. It was my first full meal in a week.

The doctor came up to see me that evening to insert my tube and to his surprise, and ours, he left the bag and tubing on my tray table. There would be no tube inserted that day. He left the bag for my motivation, as long as I ate my dinner there would be no tube and I could go home the next day.”

And I did.

It wasn’t until I surrendered my plans and trusted in Him that I received peace. He is in control and His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a better hope for the future, the one He has planned for me.

Here’s one other interesting fact about Jeremiah 29:11. God is speaking to the Isrealites through the prophet Jeremiah in the middle of the Isrealites going into captivity…again. God is saying to them…”If you will trust me, do what I say, stay true to my word, I am going to bless you, even while you are in bondage for the next 70 years.” If you don’t remember this, go back and read Jeremiah 29, it’s really eye-opening. I believe God is saying the same to us today. If you trust me (aka give me control), no matter what your in the midst of right now, I am going to bless you.”

So now when I find myself wanting to control things, I stop myself and walk through these steps:

  1. Repent – I repent of believing the lie that I am in control. I am not and to be honest, I don’t want to be. Not anymore. I know His plans are good and I can trust Him. So I want to get out of the way. The only way to do that is to repent and get aligned with Him.
  2. Renew my mind – I need His Word to do this. I will use a scripture verse to remind me of His will, whether it’s Jeremiah 29:11 or Proverbs 3:5-6 which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  3. Release – Sometimes we need a physical example of our loss of surrender and so what I often will do is think about the thing that I can’t seem to let go of and mentally put that thing in my hand and the clinch my fist around it. Once I have it there, I’ll start praying to God asking Him to take it from me and helping me to release my control over it. When I get to a point in my mind where I can start to let go, I literally start letting go, releasing my fingers from my clinched fist until I find my hand or hands completely open and then I worship Him.
  4. Obey – You have to put action to this, it can never be just a change in your heart. To truly overcome fear, you have to practice the act of obedience because this is us not just saying we are going to do what He says, it’s showing it too. Sometimes this can be really scary and I have to repeat this process, but eventually I get to the place where I know Jeremiah 29:11 is truth and by obeying Him and taking Him at His word, I gain one up on the enemy. And instead of him stealing my future, I get one up on him and in doing so experience more of the abundant life that Jesus told us about in John 10:10.

How have you struggled with control before? And what have you learned from your experience that could help others?

Photocredit: @wisdomfeed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Ways You Can Overcome Fear with Peace

“You could bleed out.”

Those words rung in my ears as I sat in my ENT doctor’s office.  It was February of 2011. My doctor  was telling me how the carotid body tumor in my neck needed to be removed and the reality of it’s removal could be, well…death.

About 7 months before that my husband and I, with our 10 month old son in tow,  moved from Hamilton, OH to his hometown of Cullman, AL to start a local church…or so we thought. It didn’t take long for us to realize, God had other plans. In fact, the church launched in August and by November we had decided to shut it down in order to seek God for what His plan was…we had decided we must have missed that along the way, because what we thought would be a successful ministry opportunity turned into a closed door. I had blogged about our experience, and you can read more about that here.

This moment in the doctor’s office was pivotal for me. You see up until this point I would not have consider myself a very anxious person. I didn’t think I had a lot of fear and for the most part, would have been willing to try new things…well, most new things.

But at this moment, of seeing the prospect of death, well, this was a game changer. From this point forward, nothing in my life was the same.

And from it you are going to learn what I did, 6 ways to overcome fear with peace, that you can use moment by moment, as you struggle through the very thing  you fear the most, even death.

But before we go there, let’s travel back in time a bit to early 2011 where  God was clarifying a vision for what I thought was for Chris to follow through on to help unify our community by bringing together local non-profits in order to meet needs in our community. I felt with everything in me God had given us that vision and I was convinced that Chris was the one who was supposed to carry it out. He was from Cullman, he knows people, he could lead a ministry like that.

And I was convinced I was the very last person on earth that could lead that vision. I wasn’t from Cullman. I am a Yankee, in a southern town, and at that time knew no one. I am also a woman, in a very conservative place where most leadership positions are held by men. Did I mention I am also a Yankee. I am the last person to be leading a ministry to meet the needs of the poor in a way that brings unity to a community that I did no grow up in.

But, God had another plan. Those words, “You could bleed out”  were the first of what started me on a path of learning about fear.

Fear like I have never felt before.

Fear that paralyzed me and gave me terrors in the night.

Never in my life did I ever experience the feelings of fear that I had days and weeks after those words were spoken over my life.

Over the next months we traveled from doctor to doctor praying we could find the one who could conduct the surgery on my tumor . And while we prayed and sought him for direction, I started to gain perspective. I started to hear Him through my scripture readings and found Phillipians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving bring your requests to God. And the God of peace will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.”

Those words were like salve on my anxious mind and were used many nights to usher me to sleep.

Because the reality is my life had to keep going on, regardless of the fear.

It was April  when we finally located an ENT with more experience with my very rare tumor than any other doctor and it would be months before the surgery was scheduled. So I do what any person who wants to remain in control of their life does, I went on doing my day job and pursuing what I thought God had for me as a calling. At that point I believed with everything in me I was called to write and speak to women.

In May of that year, I went to a Christian Writer’s Conference in Colorado (talk about getting over fears) where I was mildly successful in engaging a possible agent in a book idea I had pitched and making some great connections with publishers and editors in the Christian Writing Market. This was HUGE for me as God was redeeming a story that was laden with death words like “you’ll never be a writer” from a college professor and “you might as well forget about writing professionally, no one would ever publish what you write” from the same man. God had already been re-writing that story for me and the Writer’s Conference was just  another way He was taking what the enemy meant for harm (remember kill, steal, destroy from last week) and offering me a life of abundance.

So I truly thought…this was my calling. This is what God is going to have me do…and that other vision…well that was for Chris.

But Chris had other thoughts.  When I  originally shared that vision for him in the early parts of 2010, his response was very realistic.  He knew this community better than I.

He said, “Dawn, as much as that is a great vision to unite the community by helping meet needs of the poor, that’s going to take a lot of collaboration on the parts of the churches and other organizations. They are very divided here. So the only way that something like that is going to happen is if something big blows through this town and shakes it up.”

We would never consider Chris a prophet…but it was literally only a few months later in April of 2011 that something DID blow through our town and shake it up. In fact, on April 27, 2011 we sat huddled in a basement of a friends house as a F4 Tornado tore up our town.  You can see video coverage of that tornado, here.

God shook up a lot that day. Our town. Our hearts. Our community served each other like never before.

It was beautiful.

Are you catching all of this. A tumor. Massive anxiety. A trip to a writer’s conference. A tornado. All before the surgery in June.

He was putting me in an uncomfortable  and vulnerable place, wrapped up in very uncomfortable experiences so I would have no choice but to trust Him and only Him. I had to surrender all my control and believe He knew what was best for me.

It was during this time that I learned what it meant to have peace that guards your heart.

A peace that surpasses all understanding.

A peace that speaks to you and says, “I am not finished with you yet.”

And you cling to it with everything that you have because you want it to be true. Because surgeries are scary. And no one knows when they go in, if they are coming back out.

Peace. It is what I clung to while I walked through during the scariest part of my life. So let me walk you through 6 ways you can overcoming fear and find this peace as well.

  1. Don’t be anxious about anything…yeah, like that is easy. I know this is the verse part of the verse, but really…I don’t think God thought we could do this on our own which is why He followed it up with “with thanksgiving, prayer and petition.”  I think these are the antidote to not being anxious to anything. However, you’ll soon see, these are wise words, encouraging words, and words we want to strive to live by.
  2. Give thanks to God – Who really wants to give thanks when they are dealing with anxiety and worry? I think sometimes I actually like being worried. It gives me something to think about. Something to talk to my friends and seek their opinion on. It can be a topic of conversation at lunch. But God has a completely different idea of what I am supposed to do with that worry and it does not include any of the things I just mentioned. Darn. Instead, he wants us to change our perspective.  The act of thanking is challenging but what He wants us to get our thoughts off of us on and on to Him. So what do we thank him for? We thank Him for Him being God. He’s in charge. He is in control.
  3. Pray and Petition, bring your requests – Again, this is taking the mindset off of us. Let’s face it. If we could fix the problem, figure out the issue, or in my case…remove and cure my own tumor, I would not be worrying. I need a God that is bigger than my stuff to run to when I get to the end of myself. I honestly believe He allows us to get here. To the end of ourselves… so we’ll pray, petition, and bring Him our requests. And when we do…that’s when the blessing happens.
  4. He is the God of Peace…Did you know this about our God? The bible says, He is the God of Peace. Not the God of Anxiousness. Not the God of Stress. Not the God of Worry or Ulcers or Nail Biting. But the God of Peace. So as you pray, keep this in mind. You are praying to the God who is Peace. Do you feel like you want to go back to  number 2 and thank Him?
  5. He surpasses all understanding – Say that to yourself again. Surpasses ALL understanding. Folks…hear me out on this. We are not God. We do not have the ability to think as He does. The word says, “His ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts.” We are human. He is our Creator. There are just some things we are not going to understand. And this may be the most important thing I share with you on this entire post…you ready for it.  When I surrendered ALL understanding to Him. When I finally said, “You know what God I am never going to get my head around all of this.” that is when the peace came. Flooding in like a river. It was sweet, it was rich, and it was what I needed more than anything else, except this…
  6. Guard your heart in Christ Jesus -Because that’s what peace does. It guards your heart so as you repeat this verse over and over to yourself moment by moment, day by day, week after week and still for me 5 years later…you start to realize that the worry and the anxiety, that’s all you. Giving thanks, prayer and petition and surrendering all understanding, that’s God. He is the guardian of our hearts. Oh, dear one, let Him guard your heart today, do not try to block Him by filling your day with worry and stress.

So that’s it. The 6 ways to overcome fear, all laid out clear as day in scripture for you and me. When I uncovered this secret, I learned what it took to overcome fear. And now you can too.

Now that you know the secret to overcoming fear with peace, which of these 6 ways to overcome fear do you think will be the hardest for you to do and how can you implement them in your daily life? Take a moment and then comment below. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!