The Only Control You Have


My philosophy of life generally matches this bumper sticker. Part of it stems from thinking the rules don't apply to me, and part of it stems from eternal optimism that my efficiency can win the day.

It's not a bad philosophy, except when one of the kids gets sick or a friend's dad gets a brain tumor or TJ's flight gets delayed or Aldi is out of avocados or I have to slug through another homeschool Friday. 

For a few days, I've had a different phrase running through my head, one that suits real life more accurately. For some reason, these words formed themselves in my mind and now they are on my lips each morning. 


I think I will start saying it aloud at the start of each new day: Ginger, prepare to be inconvenienced. I need this reminder that there are things more important in life than my comfort and my preferences. 

If I am afflicted, burdened, or inconvenienced, may it be for a greater good, for others' comfort and salvation, as 2 Corinthians 1:6 says. 

I dropped Sailor off at preschool this morning, only to learn that several of the teachers are out sick due to a stomach bug having hit the preschool. That doesn't infuse one with confidence at 8:30 a.m. As I got back in the van to drive home, I had to pray out loud and lean into the "Prepare to be inconvenienced" scenario. Sailor might avoid it, or she might not, but I know that any affliction I face in this life gives me greater practice at training my character and makes me rely not on myself but on God (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Of course, I want things to go well, but I've noticed that when I don't demand it or expect it, I experience a deeper gratitude when life stays on course. Each morning that I wake up and realize no one was up sick in the night and we all slept soundly, I offer a prayer of gratitude for one more day that can begin without a change of plans. 

In James Smith's book You Are What You Love, he questions whether "the unspoken rituals [in our homes] reinforce self-centeredness rather than sacrifice." When I acknowledge that my plans for each day are held loosely, and when I remember to expect and embrace inconveniences in life, I get to embody a ritual that works the other way around. It hurts, but it heals at the same time. 

Richard Rohr said, All that is needed is surrender and gratitude.

Anne Lamott said, The only control you have is to plan your intention.

My intention is to live in between the two mantras. I want to live with a view to the future that is hopeful, that looks for the good, and that sees how things will one day be made right. At the same time, my point of surrender is to know that inconveniences will come, in both big and small ways, and they will build my character and give me chances to model for my children that this life is not all there is.  

On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
— 2 Corinthians 1:10