The Illusion of Control

 

When we were dating, my hubby-to-be said that no child of his would pick their nose.

How this conversation came about, I don’t remember. Maybe we were talking about pet peeves, or maybe we were stopped at a stoplight and there in the next car was a picker. Or maybe there was a small child nearby with his finger up his nose, grossing out my hubby-to-be.

I remember saying, “Really?” After all, I felt I had a bit more experience on this topic. I had a brother and sister 16 and 13 years younger than me and I had babysat little ones. In my mind my experience stacked up pretty high, compared to his lack of experience

“Yes. No picking,” he said with authority.

I remember just laughing a little and saying, “What are you going to do? Put corks up their nostrils?”

I was wise enough at that time to realize that you could no more stop a child from finding his nose hole, than you could keep water from leaking out a cracked cup. But I was not wise enough to realize how little control I had over the rest of life.

I was young and believed that with my daytimer and careful planning I could control my life. Certainly, my day and week. This is what I had been led to believe and what I thought was true.

While I was single, I did feel I had more control over my life. My direction and choices.

Then I got married and had kids, and, well, you know what happened. My sense of control ebbed from my hands. Plans were changed. Schedules changed. Surprises popped up time and time again.

Controlling the day or the Week was all an illusion. An elaborate magic act that never turned out the way I thought it would.

 

Examples of illusion of control.

 

Murphy’s law is alive and kicking sat my house. If it can, it will. And if it doesn’t, I may just jinx the results myself. I have come to realize that if I write it down on the calendar or in my daytimer, it does not mean it will happen, get accomplished, or abide by the time rules I was expecting.

My doctor’s appointment may be at 2:00, but the doctor often comes sliding in at 2:45. (Sitting there wishing he would appear earlier has never worked.)

I plan to do A, B, and C tomorrow, and then in the middle of the night a child comes down with some stomach bug that involves purging one’s stomach most of the night.

I plan to rake leaves, and then it rains. I think about sitting down and relaxing and the phone rings with someone needing a listening ear. I plan to go to bed early, and a child needs mom time. I schedule 5 hours to sew a toddler’s dress, and 11 hours later it is done.

Now this doesn’t mean that chaos reigns at our house. No, I control enough things just enough of the time, or maybe I should say that I get enough things done on my to-do list and abide to or fulfill enough things from the calendar, that I sometimes feel I can control my day. Maybe even parts of my life.

And then something happens. I burn dinner. I have one of those days where I seem to accomplish nothing. The calendar falls apart. More interruptions abound in my day than dust settling on a sun splashed table. Emergencies poke their annoying head into my plans. I have to laugh once again at how little I can control my life.

How the illusion of control is a lie.  

 

I have this silly little notion that it is MY time. MY life. MY plans. When in fact it is God’s time. The time he gives me is a gift. And it is no longer my life, but I am bought and paid for and serving a new master. One who is a better planner and scheduler than I am. And as for my plans, well that sounds like I am the only person living in this family. Maybe this neighborhood. Yes, when I say my plans, it sounds a bit selfish and as if I am not taking others into consideration.

We live in a society where we are told we can plan and organize and control our life. Our future. Buy this daytimer. Use this organization system. Set these goals. I am not saying any of these things are wrong or bad. I use these things. But I need to be careful that I don’t really buy into the idea that I can really control my life and future. Because if I do, I may end up frustrated when my plans get thwarted. My day re-arranged. My goals changed or delayed.

I need to be open to new plans. New goals. New directions. I need to trust that God has got this under control. That his ways are far better than mine.

Because the idea that I control anything is an illusion. An amusing joke. I can’t even control myself, more a less my day, my future, my children or hubby or anyone else.

 

The only thing I can really control.

 

But I am not called to control anything . . . but myself. 

Paul talks about self-control. Not controlling our day. Our years.

Controlling myself is a far harder task than trying to control my week. Maybe that is why I would rather try and control my day and time. It seems easier and more manageable than trying to develop self-control or trying to control myself. Self-control involves controlling my tongue, emotions, words, thoughts, and deeds.

Self-control is hard. It is not a goal I can accomplish in a month or two and cross off my to-do list. It is not even something I will ever master in my life time.

It is a day by day, hour by hour task. One that seems almost an impossible task at times. One we can not do on our own. We need help to develop self-control. God gives us help in the form of the helper, or the Holy Spirit.

No, I am not called to control anything . . . but myself.

I am called to develop self-control. I am called to place the reigns of control I have in my creator’s hands. I am called to see my time as his time. I am called to change my plans to his plans. I am called to enjoy my days and weeks, not control them.  I am called to love others, not control others.

 

Remember these 4 things when it comes to control.

 

1. Strive for self-control, not control of your life or days. The first you really do have complete control of.

2. Strive for God’s timing, not your own. His is always better.

3. Make plans and goals and set items on the calendar, but hold them loosely and be open to them being changed.

4. Develop a sense of humor so you can laugh back at the illusion of control and when it falls into pieces. You will be less frustrated when Murphy’s Laws or surprises show up to poke holes in your calendar and toss your afternoon plans out the window. Or when your future looks different than how you planned.

Or when your plans for having children who don’t pick their noses . . . goes astray.

You can guess the ending, can’t you? 

 

I think you know what happened. Well, you do if you have any experience with children and trying to get them to do or not do something.

They are as hard to control as ourselves.

Back then I was laughing at his comment that no child of his would pick their nose. But now with the passage of time, I am laughing with him. Because I have said so many things with authority and conviction that were about as silly as what he said.

When it comes to ordering your future kids, you need a sense of humor, because we really have no control over that.

You know what kind of kids we had, don’t you?

Of course, you do.

The same as most everyone else. Pickers.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important. 

Theresa

If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the discussion: What are your thought on controlling life? How successful have you been?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

What if Your Body is as Good as it Gets?

 

What if I told you that your body may be as good as it gets? Right now? Today?

Yes, right now with all its supposed flaws and appearance problems.

Dough stomach, lopsided smile, big feet, wide shoulders and all.

Would you believe me?

Or would you argue that in ten weeks after you complete that weight training, cross training, and ballet bar class your body will be better and improved. (Which, after all that work, it probably would be fitter and trimmer.)

Are you bemoaning your current body, instead of enjoying it?

 

This is what my younger sister is asking me, as I slouch against her counter top. Her hands are waving and her face is animated.

She starts her story.

We were three women standing in my kitchen, she says, complaining about summer and swimsuits. How our bodies have changed since childbirth, nursing, and whizzing past twenty, and now we are almost entering our mid-thirties.

We were analyzing and complaining about how we were so self-conscious about our stomachs as a teen–when we didn’t even have a stomach or know what a stomach was. How we were bemoaning our bodies and breasts and thighs back then and were so self-conscious. But compared to now, we looked like rock stars. Only we didn’t even appreciate what we had.

Her and I start laughing and nodding our heads.

Because if I had known as a teen or twenty something that my looks and body were changing and fading faster than dandelion seeds in a strong wind, she says, would we have been so loathsome of our bodies? So quick to find fault, compare, pick apart, and expect perfection when we were closer than we would ever be to perfection?

One of us says something about beauty and looks being wasted on the young who don’t really appreciate what is coming down the road of years, nor realize how their bodies will be on a downhill slide from around 18 or so.

So, I said to my friends, she continues, that we need to stop comparing and complaining about our bodies right now, because they sure weren’t getting any younger. Any fitter. And we need to appreciate and love them now, the way they are right now, because tomorrow they would be one day older. One day more wrinkled. One day more stooped. One day more everything.

We could complain through our thirties and into our forties and on, bemoaning how our bodies are abandoning the tone, glow, and elasticity of youth. Or we could be thankful for what we had, knowing that today we are looking our best.

I said to my friends, she said, are we going to be here ten years from now complaining how our thirty some bodies were so superior to our forty some bodies. And guess what? We didn’t even appreciate them the way we should have. Because like it or now, we are all aging and getting one day closer to checkout.

She looks at me. Then gives me her parting advice. So, enjoy your good as it gets body. I am mine.

We laugh at the silliness of our focus on beauty and body. We laugh at ourselves. And we laugh, because her words are so wise and piercing. Her story so true.

The struggle of enjoying our bodies as women. 

 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who is looking back at me. I turn sidewise and bemoan my stomach. I smile and notice all the lines pointing out from my eyes.

But I don’t want to miss out on enjoying my body. Hate aging. Dislike parts of my body because they don’t fit a beauty standard that few people can even achieve.

And so sometimes I tell myself that my body is as good as it gets and to enjoy where I am right now. Not to waste my time complaining about what I don’t have, because I am at my top form today.

And I remind myself that God loves me just the way I am. Wrinkles and a stomach do not surprise him or change his thoughts of me. I am still his beloved.

Nor do wrinkles or lack of wrinkles improve my life, make it smoother, better and improved.

Ever notice how magazines and ads and are constantly telling us we are not good enough. Beautiful enough. Tall enough. Skinny enough. And if we only did these exercises. Used this toothpaste. Wore this bra. Lined our eyes in this color. We would be enough. Our problems would be solved.

The suggestions and lies of telling us we are not enough, never stops. Every page points out a new flaw. And all with a photo shopped girl who no one really looks like 24-7. Okay, not even one hour a day.

7 ways to improve your body image?

 

1. Quit believing this lie of not being enough. No product will solve your problems. Turn you beautiful overnight. Melt away pounds and turn you into the perfect women. None. Nor will a plethora of products.

You are already the perfect woman. A woman with a wonderful destiny and future. With love and grace awaiting your acceptance of them. You are unique and the only you. You are loved and adored by your creator. You don’t need whiter teeth and the perfect arch for people to love you. Thinner thighs won’t keep you from trials or improve your life.

2. Stop comparing yourself to photo shopped photos splashed in magazines and billboards and bus sides. To images on social media.To other women. To anyone. We are all different and no one standard is better than another. One year tall is in, the next year short. We cannot change our looks ever year or season. Be the best you. The one and only you. Because when it comes down to it, a heart of kindness, love, joy, forgiveness, and grace will get you farther in life than your fleeting looks.

3. Quit thinking about your looks and self so much. Remember when you were a teen and thought everyone was noticing that pimple on your nose, but no one did because they were so preoccupied with their own pimples and worrying what others thought of them. The same still holds true. We are all more concerned with picking apart our self than we are with picking apart our friends and others. While we may feel everyone is judging us and our appearance, really very few are.

4. Change your definition of beauty. Don’t let society tell you that beauty is a skinny nose. Or one shade of hair color. Realize that true beauty comes from a confident attitude, a loving concern for others, a patient attitude, a healthy frame of mind, or an attitude of progress over perfection. Redefine beauty to something achievable.

5. Don’t listen to or engage in destructive self-talk that picks your body apart item by item. As a momma, I get upset when one of my children put themselves down. When they say they are not smart enough. Good enough. Pretty enough. I tell them to stop that and then tell them all the ways they are. Now if we get upset when our children put themselves down, don’t you think our creator likes it when we put down our self (his creation)? When we complain about the good thighs and nails he has given us we are saying we don’t like the gifts he’s given us. Do you think your mate, kiddos, or girlfriends like you putting yourself down either?

6. Find things you like about your body. We can be quick to notice our flaws. Next time this happens, make a point of appreciating and noticing the good. Come up with three good points for every negative point. As we start noticing the good, it becomes easier,

7. Realize that God loves you the way you are. If you were skinnier or had smoother skin or flawless teeth, he could not love you more. You would not be more blessed or earn more points with him. Your worth in his eyes would in no way change. He loves you flaws and all. Crocked smile and all. Flat arches and all. Just like you love your friends, animals, and kids, flaws and all. Remember, his love is never conditional. It never wavers. Because it is a perfect love, we can relax into and know we are so much more valuable than our looks.

Enjoy your body. Your looks. You are at your best today. You will be at your best tomorrow. And the next day.  Rejoice in this.

Join the Discussion: How do you show love to your body? Or combat body image woes?

Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope).  A Wise Woman Builds her Home, Pat and Candy, Messy Marriage, Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth), Missional Women, Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement) and Lili Dunbar (#FaithOnFire).

Yay for Mistakes! Part 11 | Dealing With Critical Words From Mistakes


How should we respond to someone who is pointing out our mistakes in a critical manner? 

You know the feeling. You are trying to do your best and someone starts shooting words that send you for a loop. Words that make you want to hide in the back of the coat closet. Words that cause you to start doubting yourself and think something is wrong with you. Words that snatch your smile, send your emotions for a look, and erase your worth away in an instant. Words that bruise you, but leave no outward mark.

These words don’t have to be swearing words. Or I hate you words.

They hurt and bruise because at the heart of the words is criticism. A superiority. A putting you down and pointing out what is wrong about you, but not in a loving or constructive way. These words pin you down like a specimen and provide no grace or room to wiggle free.

They are often casual comments thrown out to bait you. To communicate that you are a failure. Your job was not good enough. You have room for improvement. You made a big honking mistake and by gum they are going to be the one to point it out to you in giant living color.

Sometimes they are deliberate, other times not. They can be masked in humor. They can come from mates, children, colleagues, parents, ex’s, bosses, instructors, neighbors. Often, they come from someone who knows you pretty well. Sometimes it becomes a pattern and it happens over and over.

Your boss criticizing your punctuation mistakes in emails.

You mother in law criticizing your housekeeping.

A colleague asking why you always have to be a party pooper.

An acquaintance criticizing your new dress.

A relative questioning your decisions, big and little.

The neighbor criticizing your schooling choice.

A friend pointing out your proclivity to be late.

The event coordinator reminding that you brought a pie and not a salad, like you signed up for.

Now last time I checked, being a party pooper, bringing pie instead of salad, or being late (along with most of the things they are likely to mention) are not sins,  punishable by city ordinances, or even things for which you can get arrested and residing behind bars.

Most of the time you haven’t done anything terribly wrong, but their words make you feel small, in the wrong, and like you have committed some horrible thing because they are pointing out what they consider your flaws, your mistakes, and your habits that they dislike. You hear their critical aha-I-caught-you-words and suddenly bells are clanging in your head and your emotions are shooting out of the starting gate.

The power of words.

 

So why do their words send emotions skyrocketing and worth crashing?

Often, their words are hitting upon a sore spot. If our mother criticized our choice of clothes growing up, we will probably react differently to criticism of our clothes then someone whose clothing choices were validated. Words can instantly evoke unpleasant (and pleasant) memories and arouse the emotions that memory carries. Words can have different effects on different people. The same words crush one person, while another person is able to brush them off and laugh at their absurdity.

Our upbringing can affect the way we hear and interpret the words. If we were raised with the expectation of striving for perfection, criticism and a pointing out of our mistakes will often be harder for us than for someone who was raised with the standard of grace and encouragement. If we were criticized for our flaws and mistakes when children, we often spend the rest of our life trying to avoid making mistakes and showing our flaws to others.

Keep track. Are your most sensitive spots, when it comes to criticism and words hurting you, areas you were not allowed to falter or be human in at some point in your life? Were grace and understanding lacking from those same areas?

Knowing which areas critical words have power over you, is helpful in not letting them not  blindside and control you.

How we let critical words harm us.

 

When we base our day, our worth, or our self-esteem on what we do and don’t do, or our performance, then critical words will harm us. We will cower and think the person is pointing a finger at us in condemnation. Or we may rise up in anger and attack them.

Building our worth on what others think and say to us often causes us to wander down the road of self-doubt when we hear critical words. Self-doubt can be a lonely road. We wonder how someone can love us when we are failing. Not perfect enough or good enough. This may lead us to question whether we are lovable. And why would someone love us? Which can lead to how could God love me?

Rising up in anger will isolate us from the person and often convince them of nothing more than their current opinion.

Both responses leave us feeling worse than before.

To stop this cycle, we need to have a plan of action.

Base your worth on what is true.

 

During his temptation, Jesus fought Satan with scripture. Scripture is truth. It is power.

Remind yourself of God’s truth when you feel yourself sliding down into despair from the words of another. When you feel your temperature rise and you want to toss the person three blocks to the north.

Say these words to yourself until you can own and believe them:

God loves me mistakes, flaws, sins and all. Just the way I am. (You love your child, pet, mate, parent, or friend the way they are. You don’t say, I will love you when you quit doing X and Y. God is the same, only to some mega exponent power.)

He calls me beloved; valuable.

Jesus was perfect so I don’t need to be perfect. He doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He created me as a flawed human, and expects me to make mistakes and mess up.

My worth is not tied into my mistakes, flaws, or sins, or what I do or don’t do.

God will never leave me, forsake me, or quit loving me, no matter what I do.

My joy comes from God, and is not based upon what others think or say about me.

My actions do not define me or my worth.

Tell yourself the truth. Remind yourself of the exact things that critical words often send scurrying from our minds. The truth.

Remember: What matters most is not that you made a mistake, but how you respond after your mistake.

Some other things to remember.

 

Critical words and pointing out of flaws happens. We do it. Others do it. It even happens to perfect people. Think about all the times people were critical with Jesus. And he was perfect! So, don’t be surprised when they happen to you.

Sometimes we base our day (and our worth) on how things are going. Good day equals happiness. Day with conflict equals a bad day and we feel down.

Instead of striving to have a good day, or a conflict free day, a perfect day or a strife free day, realize that conflict is part of life. Strive to have a day where you remember your true identity and that it is not tied up into the day’s events or what you accomplish or don’t do. Strive to have a day where you learn, grow, and give others and yourself grace.

We can’t stop criticism coming our way, but we can change our response. We can also quit taking the criticism so personally and owning it, especially when it is untrue. Most criticism has a lot of untruth in it. So toss the untruth into the garbage can and leave it there.

Criticism can be uncomfortable and hard to hear, but it is easier when we remember whose we are and that our worth is not tied to the expectations or words of another.

And when you find yourself doubting your worth, remind yourself of eternal truths, you precious, beloved, and valuable human. Yes, that’s you!

Join the Discussion: How do you handle the criticism of others?

Need more encouragement? Michelle DeRusha, in her post “How to Choose Humility over Humiliation,” talks about how she received some critical words.


Articles is this series:

Yay for Mistakes! Part 1 | What Do You Do?
Yay for Mistakes! Part 2 | How to Respond
Yay for Mistakes! Part 3 | Responding to Our Children’s Mistakes
Yay for Mistakes! Part 4 | How to Let Our Children Make Mistakes and Fail
Yay for Mistakes! Part 5 | Quieting a Myth of Mistakes
Yay for Mistakes! Part 6 | Mistaking Our Worth
Yay for Mistakes! Part 7 | Mistaking Paradise
Yay for Mistakes! Part 8 | Some Mistakes Are Really Blessings in Disguise
Yay for Mistakes! Part 9 | Dealing with Really Big Mistakes
Yay for Mistakes! Part 10 | Letting Go to Make Mistakes
Yay for Mistakes! Part 11 | Dealing With Critical Words From Mistakes

Accompanying this series, Life as it Comes, a story podcast, takes a humorous look at making mistakes in episode 31, “Have You Pulled a Theresa?” and Episode 33, True Green and Garage Chaos .

Thanks for stopping by.

Keep remembering what’s important,

Theresa


Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope).  A Wise Woman Builds her Home, Pat and Candy, Messy Marriage, Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth), Missional Women, Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement) and Lili Dunbar (#FaithOnFire).