My fists close tight, clenched at my side, as I hold to the illusion of control.


Over the past few months, my clamped hands have begun to get tired. Many times, when my idea of how things should go goes wrong, I hold on tight, instead of trusting God. The control is an illusion—I never really have it. Thankfully, illusions only last so long before the wind blows them away. The illusion of control mists and vanishes, and pride reveals itself for what it is.


I think part of joy is constantly adjusting our expectations to the level of reality. In other words, opening our hands and letting go, letting God…


Direct our plans.


Soften our hearts.


Move us as He will.


My spasmodic instinct to hold on tight when my plans seem to falter is far less satisfying than the hand open wide and willing before God Almighty. The sweet willingness to humbly submit to the plans of the Omniscient. “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”


Joy comes with open hands.


The last day of my honeymoon comes vividly to mind. My husband and I only planned one day of our entire honeymoon. The week was, largely, left to impulsive drives to Traverse City, MI; walks on the beach, sits in the sand; shopping and eating and resting and talking. But the last day was set in stone: we were going to Mackinac Island, and we were going to dine at the Grand Hotel. My fist had closed tight over the day before it had even begun.


Of course, the day went wrong.


We didn’t pack the right dress code for the dinner (khaki colored jeans are not dress pants, for those who wonder, and a black tie dinner means you need a tie). And the people made us feel inferior (“I suppose the pants could be acceptable” the lady told us). So we didn’t dine in luxury.


We snacked at a low-key restaurant instead. And, rather than accept the day as it was, I sulked hard. My hand still fisted the day I desired. I ran the situation over in my mind a million times, dreaming of the fancy dinner on the hill, knowing all the time that we made the right decision…but angrily talking out my disappointment on my stressed-out husband instead.


We ended up sitting on a grassy hill, waiting for our ferry, conflict-solving. Ah, the romance.

Looking back, I know that the day itself wasn’t a bad one. We spent a day walking around a gorgeous and flower-filled island on a gorgeous and sun-filled day.


It was my tight-fisted control that spiraled me into despair—not the events of the day. There’s a peace in letting go. I’ve had a few opportunities to do so since, and the result—really and truly—is joy. My worry lines ease and my hands relax and the weight of control falls before the One who can carry it.


So, open my hands, Lord, that I may joy in You.


I wish I could press the autumn leaves between the pages of my mind, encapsulating forever their shape and color.


I wrote this line a few years back, when my daily walk to class passed through a line of red and gold trees. Every day the sight would catch me off guard (morning light bursting fire-red into raging flame), and, sometimes, I’d have to pause on the sidewalk to stare at the sight, shielding my eyes to look at the glory.


The sentiment now returns to me yearly.


Have you ever seen something with so much beauty that your heart almost burst and you felt…pain? The pain of knowing that the sunset would set, the leaves whither away, the season’s end come? And, of course, no matter how much you sunk into the moment, the moment would slip away. It’s Ecclesiastical.


Life’s changing seasons feel like this, at times. The beauty in the present is so stark that we forget that when the sun sets, the stars comes out; when the leaves whither, snow cleanses the earth; when the season ends, another fills its place—with a unique beauty all its own.

And what about when it’s not beautiful? When the ice freezes your fingertips and your icy breath is labored? When the days feel long and cloudy, and the next season feels years away?


Lamentations comes to mind. The book riddled with pain and despair (conquest and slavery) and then hope and love (salvation and redemption). What did the Lord give the weary and war-worn, torn, teary, terrified people?


Hope.


“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.


I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.


The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord (Lam. 3:22-26).”


I look at my cat's green eyes, specked with amber.


She purrs, and I press my ear to her, feeling the warm vibration. She's chosen a place in the sun--her eyes tucked just below the light.


Looking at cats, I've often observed their quietude. They sit, they sleep, they stare in wonder out the window--and they are contented in these acts, mundane as they are.


During college, the rush from bed to bathroom to car to class made me think wistful thoughts about quietude. Cold feet on my kitchen floor, I'd relish the warmth of my coffee mug, sniff the wake-me-up, and stare out the window at the gold of morning. I'd daydream that I could stand there for an hour, frozen in time. Have some much-needed quiet time, time in the Word.


It's different now.


My part-time job only partly fills my week. And for the rest of the time? Quietness (different from quietude)--all I could have asked for and more. Yet, instead of gentle mornings gently woken, I often feel alone. My spirit feels far from quietude in these moments, instead residing in restlessness, yearning to go and do.


In these moments, walks are a refuge. Stagnant inside air gives way to wind and movement. Somehow, walking along the sidewalk beside old brick houses and small business shops, it feels easier to converse with God. It feels easier to hear His familiar whisper to my heart.


So often I yearn to be, before I am.


I yearn to be more in the Word, talk more to God, hear more from God--without taking the steps required of such ends. And those ends, inevitably, require quietude. The willingness to embrace the calm, the quite, as a necessary step to a necessary end. It's [often] in the quiet places that God orients hearts toward Himself, adjusting and correcting sight line.


So calm my mind, O Lord, that I may sit at Your feet as the Mary of old did.

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