Living Out-of-Control…

You can usually tell what I think about a book by its appearance after I’ve read it.
Turned-down-corners and underlining is the litmus test.

I started last week’s mini-adoption-series before I’d checked my writing calendar and remembered that I’d agreed to review Karen Ehman’s new book–
Let. It. Go.

The irony is, that her whole book is about opening up our tightly clenched fists, as we gently place our tendency to be controlling back into the outstretched hands of our loving God.

And the time in my life, when I felt most out-of-control was during the years of our adoptions.

Now, in general, I don’t consider myself overly controlling…
But what I realized as I read this book, is that I definitely have a bit of “control-freak” wired into me.

My garage tubs and holiday Rubbermaids are all labeled.
Every child has a toothbrush holder in the bathroom that is in line according to their age (as are the towel bars).
Each family member has their own labeled clean-laundry-bin.
And I have systems for most everything (shoes, mail, bills, chores, pets, groceries, calendars…even my seasonal-rotating-candy-dispensers).

Most of that is simply because we have busy lives, and lots of little kids, and I find freedom in having some sort of plan for staying organized so that I don’t waste endless hours looking for Lydia’s pink sparkle shoes when we are trying to head out the door.

That said– I’m pretty generous with taking on messes and I love letting the kids collect things, build things, create things and invite over a household of busy-little-people-things.
Our house is used.
I try hard to be a “yes” mom.
And our mini van, with its stale-french-fry-cranberry-cracker-filled-cup-holders,
would probably make you think, I need more control.

But, as I read through this book, I started seeing areas of my life where I very much cling to the facade of “being in control”.
And when I can’t maintain that illusion of control, the result is…
Which I still do struggle with quite often.

I felt this deeply during our adoptions.
Because it was one period of time where beyond meeting all of the necessary requirements, there was absolutely nothing I could do to speed up or ensure a positive outcome in our adoptions.
And that feeling of being out-of-control–
It was (and is) really difficult for me.

Because I like it when there is something I can–
Do, or fix, or supply, or do, or create, or change or…

It was the same for me when our Selah was so sick and even more-so when she died.

Again…absolutely no way I could push-through-pound-it-out-make-it-happen to change the circumstances.
Her life was completely out of my control.
And it felt scary.

I appreciate Karen’s book because she clearly explains that relinquishing control of our lives does not mean we become apathetic.
We are still active and we still do whatever we can do to make the best choices and live life in a way that aligns with God’s Word,
But it’s more of a call to face reality…
That there is much in life that is completely beyond our control and we all have to wrestle with whether or not we really:

~believe in God.
~trust who He is.
~have confidence that all things in this world fall under the control of His unchanging, unwavering presence and power.

“The difference is Christ in me.
Not me in a different set of circumstances.”
~Elisabeth Elliot

Let. It. Go. is really a call to contentment.
But along the journey, Karen uses practical, sometimes hilarious, and often-very-personal examples to shine a spotlight on the many ways we attempt to hold on tightly to the illusion of control.
For me personally, several sections pierced my heart:

~how, as wives, we often use subtle manipulation to control our husbands.
~how, as moms, we often try to “fix” struggles for our children as a way of controlling their circumstances.
~how comparison can become a controlling force in our lives.
~how our own schedules and need to be/seem busy can control us.

Beyond all that, I just felt like God wanted me to read this book.
Within the first few chapters Karen shared about her middle child’s struggle with dyslexia.

So much of what she wrote was an echo of our family’s experience as we tried to understand and appreciate our daughter’s dyslexia.

And then near the end of the book, Karen included a whole section on Psalm 62, which is probably the psalm closest to my heart because the first time I really read it was when we were up at the hospital with Selah, wrestling through the lack-of-control we had over her disease.

Karen commented– “What a perfect psalm for us to cling to as an anchor when we feel that situations are beyond our control!”

That section led into one of my favorite parts of the whole book,
About how God desires to transform our idol of control into a beautiful ability to live with soul control.

“Soul control is when we speak God’s truth to ourselves.

Soul control is when we recognize that life isn’t fair–that others who seem evil prosper, while the righteous seem to flail about.

Soul control is when we pause to remember our place. And God’s.

Soul control is learning to idle our brains before we engage our mouths, thereby saving ourselves a boatload of heartache, wounded relationships, and regret.

Soul control is when we stop–sometimes midsentence–and realign our thinking and resulting actions with God’s Word.

Soul control is when we finally realize that it is only God who has the sole control over the universe. We do not.” (pg. 181)

I also really appreciated Chapter 11– Living the Relinquished Life.
Karen writes that she was “ready to experience the thrill of being out of control” (201).
That she “decided there were benefits to being out of control” (204).
And that she “finally felt the thrill of living relinquished instead of living tightfisted all the time” (205).

After our daughter Selah died, I remember thinking…
Now we have three towel racks and we only have three towels.
There is one towel rack for each child’s towel.
Orderly. Practical. Plan-able. Controlled.
The thought wasn’t a comfort, but a constant, searing pain in my heart.

A little too neat.
A little too tidy.
A reminder of how much I missed the little one who had filled our life to overflowing.
A reminder of how beautiful it was to live in that place of overflow,
Where clinging to Him came with every breath.
He stretched us through adoption, but all the while, we knew He was in control.
I loved living in that place of relinquishment.

God’s plans don’t always follow the road map I’ve sketched out.
And they don’t even always follow the most logical route.
I want to expect the unexpected, to give up my need for control.
I want to wait on His leading for what may come around the next corner.

Only when I acknowledge that:

~this life is messy.
~it often doesn’t go as I’ve planned.
~relationships will disappoint.
~there will be struggles.
~and I rarely even meet my own expectations…

Only then–
Will I cling to God, abide in Him, and call out my need to Him daily.

I will say:
…apart from You, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

And only then–-
When I relinquish control and
Let. It. Go.
Will I find true strength.
True order.
Real purpose.
Real peace.

And only then– will I be ready for His adventure!

I’ve shared before about how I want–
Faith that Walks.

And so–
I will reach for the fringe of His garment.
With grasping faith.
Trusting in
The giver of Faith.

What about you?

As Karen asks…
“Will you loosen your grip on life and grab tightly to the edge of His garment?”


Make sure you don’t miss the other posts from this series:
And Then He Told Me That I’m Adopted (our adoption stories)
The Most Important Question You Can Ask About Adoption
Helpful Adoption Resources
Seven Reasons That We Love Adoption (and why I think of it every Day-Before-Thanksgiving

*Let. It. Go. is available on Amazon and at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Karen Ehman is the Director of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team and the author of six books. Her passion is to provide practical inspiration and biblical encouragement to help women live their priorities and love their lives. She’s been a guest on The 700 Club, Moody Midday Connection and Focus on the Family. She and her college sweetheart Todd are raising their three kids in the boondocks of central Michigan. Connect with her at



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  1. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. HopeUnbroken says:

    oh, this was balm to an aching heart today. thanks, sweet friend. i think this is on my “to-read” list. like, immediately :-)
    bless you this day, and i pray you have a wonderful week celebrating His goodness.

  3. This is just perfect, Kara! I especially love this: relinquishing control of our lives does not mean we become apathetic.

    Years ago, a person told me that I thought I was happy ( :-) ), but I really wasn’t. What I couldn’t see, according to him, was that I was just pretending to be happy sitting in the mud at the bottom of a scummy pond. That was about 30 years ago and the comment stuck, not because I was discouraged. To the contrary, I felt bad for him and his dark view on life.

    Your comment above nails what I felt, but was not able to convey to him. Thanks for the reminder of what true contentment is!

    • Don’t you love that Elizabeth Elliott quote?
      It’s exactly what you rest in…and I do see it in you.

      It’s not a matter of pretending that everything is Polly-anna-perfect…
      It’s that we have Him in the middle of it all.
      And actually for me…the ROCK I hold onto is knowing this “isn’t all there is”.
      Feels huge and heavy when we’re in the middle of the heartache, but also makes me long for Heaven.
      Always always appreciate your perspective Kim…thank you!

  4. I need to read this book:) Until then, I am grateful to have your beautiful review with summary points to think on.

  5. Wanda Galloway says:

    I’m guilty. I have a problem with trying to control all my circumstances. I’m not proud.
    What a great post!

    • I’m with ya Wanda…and it’s an ongoing battle to trust Him in the middle of our circumstances. In that Psalm I mentioned above (Ps 62) my favorite part is when He gives us the freedom to “pour out your heart to the Lord”.
      I love that…knowing that whatever the circumstances…I can come and pour out my heart to Him.

  6. It’s like reading about myself (except for the loss of your daughter – I’m so very sorry for you whole family). I can’t wait to read this book and to learn how to Let. It. Go.

    • Thank you for your kind words Lori…

      With all the medical stuff and worry and trying to hold on tightly to some sort of control…
      (I popped on over to your FB page)…
      It’s just such a battle isn’t it?
      To preach Truth to ourselves and remember who He is and cling to His love for us and how we can truly trust Him.
      For me, it’s often a repeating cycle of “take every thought captive”…giving it all back to Him.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for stopping by…

  7. Learning to Let It Go moment by moment! Thank you for this opportunity!

  8. I was given this book at the Allume conference last month and I am very much looking forward to reading it. I spent years micromanaging my family and living under the burden of fear and control. Though much of it is in my past, I know my potential to squeeze tight and want to MAKE God do things my way…*I* after all know *EVERYTHING* about my kids and their needs—insert cheekiness there please!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well as your vulnerability. It was quite refreshing and challenging!

    • Ha! Could totally relate… *I* ALSO know *EVERYTHING* about how things should go and what is *BEST* for them. Clearly. :)

      There is one whole section on that in the book…how the very thing we may try to remove/fix/change in their circumstances, may end up being the very thing that God plans to use to draw them to Him.

      That stops me in my tracks if I really pause and think about it!
      I’m with you…love that feeling of freedom when I realize it really isn’t my burden to carry (and I’m not very good at carrying it anyway :) )

  9. prayernotesbycynthia says:

    Good morning and many blessings to you and yours!
    What a great post and self-examination. This book sounds interesting. I must check it out! As a retired teacher and assistant principal, I believe I learned to become a control-freak. I had to be able to help, solve and bring a positive conclusion to every situation. I couldn’t stand for feelings and relationships not “to be the way they should be.” Now, my family thought I was joyful and easy-going, but inside, I was panicking and trying to make sure I fixed everything. This controlling had to do with others being satisfied and happy. This attitude or obsession wasn’t as prevalent in my household chores, as in my relationship with others. Isn’t that interesting?! As I grew older and more diligent in my relationship with the LORD, I realized that I was carrying burdens that could not handle. I wasn’t in control. I learned that if I would let go and allow God to handle the “spills” of life, my relationships and feelings would be just fine. I did it and I haven’t looked back. When I feel those old urges to fix everything, creep into my mind, I shut them off with a prayer and sit them upon the altar of my Jesus. Well, I have written a short novel, instead of a brief reply! LOL! I must get to my art studio and praise and create! Blessings!

    • I could relate to so much of what you shared in here…that desire to “fix” things…as I was processing all this…it was interesting to realize that I’m pretty laid back in the “small things” (which ironically are areas I could probably control to some degree) but it’s the bigger areas (like relationships and health and our kiddos’ salvation) that I have trouble turning over to the Lord. Which is just crazy because those are the areas I absolutely CAN’T control…and I could worry myself sick trying to.

      I love what you wrote about shutting off those swirling thoughts/emotions with prayer. My go-to-verse when i’m starting to worry is “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”…

      Take every thought captive…I NEED that!

      Thanks so much for sharing you journey in this area…it is really encouraging to me. Love, K

  10. Wow what a powerful post and such raw emotion thank you for sharing and thank you for teaming up with Karen so I could find this today

  11. Again, thanks for sharing your heart. This book is definitely on my Christmas list!

    • I really enjoyed the self-quiz-questions at the end of each chapter…it was interesting to process and discover what areas I struggle with as far as try to clench my fist around “control”. Love ya WW :)

  12. Kristen Hamilton says:

    Hi Kara! I’ve read your “Everything” posts you’ve shared with the team. Now I’ve come across Karen and her great looking book that I can’t wait to get and dive into! I noticed you were on her blog tour and thought I’d come by again! Thank you for the beautiful way you shared about trusting God.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by Kristen…I was really thankful for the Everything-team-experience…I’m seeing a similar theme running through all this…aren’t you? :)
      Placing it all back in His hands…
      Trusting Him with my “everything”.

  13. bluecottonmemory says:

    I know that feeling of wanting to fix problems – instead of letting my boys do that – but that does them a dis-service. It’s a challenging way to balance – but I understand the letting go – when you’ve had a rebellious teen – you have to let go and give it to God – because there’s a point by letting go He can do so much more than I can – walking the letting go is indeed a faith walk – and it is an amazing faith walk! Blessings on such a powerful post!

    • Ah yes…with the kiddos…it’s totally a struggle (and we don’t even have teens yet). I have a close friend who is a couple stages ahead of me and it has been powerful for me to watch her prayerfully trust Him with the choices of her older children. I love how you described it… “an amazing faith walk”.

  14. I loved your devotion today Kara. Although God has proven himself to me over and over in the past i still have a hard time letting go. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. God bless you.

    • I’m so with you Diki…
      It’s the same cycle for me of “taking back control” and then relinquishing it to Him…but I see victory when I’m quicker to place it all back in His hands. Thank you so much for stopping by… Love, K

  15. Scrapperdeb says:

    I’ve enjoyed visiting all the blogs Karen has mentioned that are reviewing her book. Thank you for your writing.

  16. I’m in the middle of reading this book because I’m doing a review too:) And this time of year, I am most apt to try to grab control. It’s a great book!

  17. Thanks for the beautiful reminder!

  18. angela robbins says:

    Thank you for this review and giveaway! I would love to win this book! :)

  19. LeAnn Williams says:

    Wow, this was an powerful post. Through life experiences I do know that I can always turn to a lovely Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ to walk with me. The book sounds like an awesome read. I always enjoy your thoughts but this one today was outstanding and I could relate to it on many levels.

    Blessings for this one!

  20. jennywagner says:

    I have recently discovered that I am a bit of a control freak. Some how I didn’t realize it as it was masked with the labels “perfectionist” and “first-born.”
    I definitely need to get this book! Thank you for the review.


  1. […] begins where we are giving away a second Kinlde Fire. Today’s posts are found at my friend Kara Chupp’s and Arlene […]

  2. […] adoption stories) The Most Important Question You Can Ask About Adoption Helpful Adoption Resources Living Out-of-Control (and how adoption helped us Let. It. Go.) “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For […]

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