Self Control – Learning How to Wait

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“Brown Thrasher” 20 x 16 acrylic on canvas; painting overlaps on barn-wood frame.

There’s an adage that says “Be careful what you wish for.” Conversely, there’s another one for believers: “Be careful what you pray for.”

As the mother of six children, I was constantly on my knees praying for patience. The Lord took me at my word and gave me strong-willed children, a critical spouse, and many opportunities to serve my church and community. In the process, I gained the skills I needed to serve my family and my God better.

Of course, the road was bumpy and difficult. I discovered my dependence on God for strength, and I learned how to wait for the things that I wanted.

Berry Picking Time 16 x 20 oil on canvas

“Berry Picking Time” 16 x 20 oil on canvas

If you think it’s easier to indulge your physical and emotional urges and let the “chips fall where they may,” you’re wrong. If that’s how you operate, you’re the one being controlled because you’re constantly at the beck and call of your passions and desires. You couldn’t stop even if you wanted to.

Once you cross the line from choice to addiction, your life becomes a living hell. You’re no longer cool and attractive because you’re no longer in control. It is much harder to break a habit than to shape constructive behavior.

On average, it takes 30 days to form a new habit and at least twice that long to break a bad one. But if you replace a destructive habit with a good one, you will heal in the process.

Whether it’s a craving for food or a sexual addition, all appetites and passions are difficult to break. If you gain two pounds every Christmas, and you don’t take that weight off, in twenty years you’ll have 40 pounds of excess fat. What if the amount you gain every year is five pounds, or ten? Is it really worth giving in?

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Our government has self-indulged to the tune of almost $20 trillion dollars. Politicians are continually being “found out” for seeking prostitutes or taking bribes. Where did this lack of integrity come from? How did this unwillingness to take ownership and responsibility for one’s actions become so commonplace? It starts in the home and it begins in childhood.

Self-gratification always has a price either in divorce, disease, addiction and ill health, or in the downfall of success, prestige, and integrity. We have seen it across the nation in the lives of the rich and famous whose weaknesses are exposed in the finality of death

We should show our children the principles of self-control and integrity by example. We should teach them to wait for fulfillment instead of giving them what they want the minute they whine or throw a tantrum. We should help them learn how to plan and to save, so they may experience the joy of earning what they want.

Helping our children experience “delayed gratification” will increase their willpower, teach them how to save money, and how to endure when it comes to their own future education, marriage and parenting.

Today I see my personal struggle to overcome as an advantage and blessing. Instead of running up my credit cards, I have learned to sit back, reassess my needs and wants, and wait for the right item at a price I can afford. Instead of fretting over what I don’t have, I simply make a list, plan and adjust my budget, and watch for the right opportunity.

A friend helped me shop for a much-needed chest. She fretted for me. She urged me to make a decision and just buy one that she thought was appropriate for my bathroom; but I dug in my heels. I needed the drawer space for towels, but I was willing to wait for the right one.

It took me three years to finally buy the piece I wanted. It was the perfect fit! I didn’t have to move or alter the position of the wall art. Its size required no changes whatsoever between the door on the right or the towel rack on the left. The chest slipped easily under the large mirror hanging on the wall. I found exactly what I wanted at a price I could afford.

Peace Plant

Peace Plant

This “patience thing” has put materialism where it belongs: somewhere down there with “things,” and well below my priorities of God, family, church, community.

I admit I once was a “hot head.” But the Lord helped me count to ten, and then to 50 as I tried to weigh my words. We could use a little more self-control in our out-of-control-world. Road rage, shootings, stabbings, mob violence and destruction have never been higher. We can’t always control others, but at least we should be able to control ourselves.

What do you get in return for your self-denial and patience?   A peaceful center from which to deal with others. Your anxiety and worry will melt away as you stand fast on your convictions and beliefs. Self-confidence will replace doubts. I tell you from my own experience, the pay-off is well worth the effort.

When all you have left is a “Wing and a Prayer”

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“Vikeholmen Lighthouse” Norway, acrylic on canvas

Most of us have been there. We’ve gotten by on little or nothing and all we have is hope and a prayer to pull us through.  Life is never a straight line. It’s more like a roller coaster. We don’t suddenly “arrive.” We struggle to find our footing, and we reach for the strongholds that will pull us upward.

Sometimes our fingernails scrape against dirt and grime. Our hearts get broken. We become battered and bruised within and without. This is the turning point where many fall by the wayside. It’s the crucial “trial by fire” that determines what we’re made of; either we keep going in spite of all, or we become simply a lost player in the game of life.

Those who keep putting one foot in front of the other and slog along do so because they must. To give up is not in their vocabulary or their souls. They never allow quitting or giving up to enter their minds. Experience has taught them that nothing is permanent. Change is inevitable. They accept what they have no control over. They know that at the end of a storm there’s a rainbow. They believe in the cliché “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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“Beach Buddies” mixed media on canvas

Those who don’t make it either haven’t experienced this transient state or they’ve not only lost confidence in themselves, but in life itself. Without hope we die, and yet all around us there is reason for optimism if we but open our eyes. After every harsh winter there is spring. It has been so since the beginning of time. Following a bitter dark night of the soul, there is always morning in all its glorious splendor and promise.

People eschew the Bible, but the Word of God is resplendent with truth and wisdom. When fear grips us with terror, these words can give us hope: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

When we’re sailing over unknown terrain and in uncharted waters (at least for us), we must not give up! Who’s to say that in the next hour or twenty-four things will change. A need will be met. The answer to our pain will be whispered softly in a forgotten refrain or in an answer to prayer to give us courage.

There are dark evil forces in the world and there are those of goodness and light. The former pulls us downward and instills fear in our hearts; the other renders peace and comfort. Why would we look anywhere else when we’re in need of solace and calm?

Music can call us out of ourselves and lift us to higher ground. It can keep dark thoughts at bay and help us overcome our weaknesses.

The beautiful Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

The psalmist said in Psalm 121:1-2 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help; my help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

Why do we scoff or turn our backs on the very thing which could give us strength? Reach out my friends. His love is real!

The Museum “Love will Find You”