I needed to hear these three words today… maybe you do too?
Hi, my name is Michelle, and I am a control freak.
When I think of the little girl in me, I understand why control is so paramount. Even now, being in control feels like survival, and losing control triggers me into a slow spiral of complete helplessness. I equate control with safety, and when I am not in control, it can be terrifying.
But, what if it’s not?
If I could sum up 2020 in a sentence, I am not in control of anything.
I had my future planned. And suddenly, everything changed.
It triggered me and brought back my old friends: panic, anxiety, and fear. They unpacked their bags, and for a while, they were my constant companions, especially at night when they whispered, “What are you going to do?” It was just like old times. I started planning my next move while anticipating all that could go wrong.
One night, as I browsed the internet searching for my next opportunity, I landed on information about a graduate degree in Pastoral Counseling – Crisis Response and Trauma. I filled out the form to request more information, and when I submitted it, my phone rang.
The man who called offered to answer my questions about graduate school, so I asked, “When do classes start?”
Hello? Are you still there?”
Dates are a big deal to me, and May 11 is a significant date for me. I held my breath as I listened to him list the requirements, but honestly, graduate school was not my plan. He ended with, “The deadline to apply is April 15th.”
I put that away in my mind and continued to convince myself that it did not make sense to go back to school at my age. The control freak in me continued to look for my next career/opportunity. When the thoughts of going back to school came into my mind, I pushed them away. There had to be a better plan for me, but I went ahead and ordered my transcript to see if I would even qualify. I called a few friends hoping they would talk me out of it.
On April 14th, I opened the refrigerator and stared at the expiration date on the milk.
I applied the next morning and was accepted. The last paper I wrote in college was on a word processor. I had to learn what APA meant. It has been incredibly challenging and exhilarating.
It feels like I am walking blindfolded with Jesus, learning to trust and depend on him for every step.
It’s been challenging to juggle school with family and a new job. I usually wake up early and go to bed late to work on school work. On weekends, I take breaks to make meals, but mostly I am writing papers. I thought I would never get through my first few classes, but God has been faithful to help me. I’ve had to rely on him entirely because I am way beyond my comfort zone.
Why am I telling you this? Maybe you struggle with control issues too?
In Matthew 14:25, Jesus walked on water towards the disciple’s boat, and they were afraid. He told them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
My need to be in control makes me choose security, stability, and safety. It makes it hard for me to step out onto the water.
Not Peter. He said, “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Peter got out of the boat, and he walked on water towards Jesus.
It is hard to be like Peter. I don’t enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone, and I don’t want to fall. While this season of not being in control has triggered deep places in me that require further healing, it has also opened my eyes to an amazing and profound truth:
Losing control helped me to realize I never had control in the first place.
I still have to remind myself (and the little girl inside of me) daily: “Go for it! You have nothing to lose. His plan is better than anything you can imagine. God is your helper, and you are not alone. Keep your eyes on Him, and walk. If you fall, get up and try again. It is going to be okay.”
Maybe He has laid something on your heart that seems impossible.
Is He calling you to get out of the boat? What is holding you back?
I’d love to hear from you! Go for it! You have nothing to lose.
I am sharing the lessons I learned from 2020 that I am bringing into 2021. You can click on the link below to read Lesson 1.
I am sharing the lessons I learned from 2020 that I am bringing into 2021.
Lesson 1: The Sky is Not Falling. (Don’t be afraid.)
Before I went into therapy, one of the things that I struggled with was this feeling that the rug would get pulled from beneath me at any moment. I never felt like I could feel too peaceful or too content with life because there was always this impending doom around the corner. I never knew when, what, how, or where it was going to hit. Maybe the most potent fear that I had was that I was going to die. I never thought I would make it to my 18th birthday, and then I made it to my 18th birthday. It was hard for me to believe I would get married. I never thought I would have children. I always had this thought that I, or someone close to me, was going to die.
When I started counseling, she explained that it was “doomsday thinking.” She said those patterns of thinking are stemming from the abuse I endured because it was unpredictable, repetitive, and constant. So, even when the abuse ended, I was still anticipating the next bad thing.
So, we did a lot of work together, and over time my doomsday thinking improved.
But 2020 was traumatic. It is hard for me to write or even talk about it. I am still processing it. My one word for 2020 was “Stand,” and by the end of the year, the ground felt unsteady. I felt unsteady. I realized I was having those long ago thoughts of doomsday thinking.
New trauma brings up old trauma.
I was worried about what was going to happen tomorrow.
I was afraid to think it couldn’t get any worse, because it kept getting worse.
Suddenly, I was right back to thinking that the rug was going to get pulled beneath me at any moment.
I never said, “I feel like God is going to pull the rug beneath me.” I never said it, and I am not even sure I thought it but, who else was pulling the rug?
I knew He was sovereign. I believed He was in charge of my life, but the little girl in me went back to holding my breath while thinking those old thoughts, “God is going to pull the rug at any minute!”
I never knew what the next day would bring, but thinking it could always get worse felt like protection. If I anticipate the worst thing that could happen, then maybe when it happens, it won’t be as bad.
Is it just me?
What a horrible way to live and think! There’s a lot that I could say about how that affects us, but the truth is that is not how He created us to live. (John 10:10)
Finally, in December 2020, as my thoughts unraveled, I realized, “Woah! I am thinking as if God is going to pull the rug up under me! This is doomsday thinking again.”
Shortly after that, I received a text from my friend and mentor, Tope (find her at www.hiddentreasuresandriches.com – she is fantastic). She was out shopping and texted me a picture of a painting. There were no words or explanation, just the photo of a painted lion (plus pink).
As soon as I saw the photo, I started looking through my pictures. That photo reminded me of a picture I took of a lion at the Riverbanks Zoo in July of 2015. Once I found it, I sent it to her and said, “You have no idea!”
When I took that picture, I was still in counseling and making progress. I remembered walking into the zoo gate and seeing that lion sitting there, unafraid. That lion was the King of the Zoo. I snapped the photo as I thought of my King, Jesus – The King of the World. I felt like He was saying, “I am your King, and I am fiercely protective of you. I am not going to hurt you. I watch over you always, and I will pounce to protect you. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. You are my daughter, my princess.”
Back then, I was scared and desperately needed to realize He was my protector.
He knew I was scared again, and He came to my rescue. He prompted my friend to take the picture and send it to me. He knew I needed that gentle reminder, “You don’t have to be afraid anymore, princess. I am your King, your protector, your shield, and your Father.”
She ended up buying it for me, and it is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning to remind me that no matter what happens, I do not have to live in fear.
What lessons from 2020 are you bringing into 2021?
I’m writing my memoir of healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse. Today, I wrote about the year I broke the “code” and missed Christmas the first time. Celebrating together and visiting everyone was always a big deal. Perhaps the greatest act was to show up, smile, hug, and exchange gifts with my abuser.
It was the same year that Kelly Clarkson released, Just for Now. I listened to that song over and over. The lyrics that played over and over in my mind were:
“Bite tongue, deep breaths.
Count to ten, nod your head.”
“Get me, get me outta here.”
Can you relate?
Being frozen and on high alert wasn’t the best way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it was all I knew. It was how I coped.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
That first year was challenging. At times, I would cry. I allowed myself to be present and feel, and that came with all of the emotions. I wasn’t holding my breath anymore.
I was able to pay attention and be still.
I have two great memories from that Christmas. The first was from the Christmas Eve service at our church. My youngest was asleep in my lap, and we were singing Christmas carols. When we sang “O Holy Night,” I “heard” for the first time, “Til he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”
He was doing that for me as He removed all of my heavy shame. I felt free.
The other great memory was watching a movie about the birth of Jesus with the kids on Christmas Eve. As the narrator told the story, he read, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”
I pressed pause on the movie and ran to get my Bible and mark that verse and date it.
He is faithful, and I still believe He will fulfill His promises to me.
We started a new tradition that year. We stayed home as a family in our pajamas all day. We still do, and it truly is the most beautiful time of the year.
Maybe you know what it is like to show up for celebrations, holding your breath in all of the complicated and messy.
This is your year to break it off.
Start new traditions. God did not create you to hold your breath and thrive in dysfunction. I longed for an excuse to escape, and this year we all have one. Take it and do something new for you.
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45 NIV