Thursday thoughts: Don't let sticking to your 'lists' rob you of contentment


Our daughter, Missie, takes after her mother and is a lover of “lists.” Missie is 39 years old, has a form of autism, is developmentally delayed and basically operates on about an 11-year-old level. She loves to make Christmas lists.

Now mind you her first sentence when she sends a list is always, “I don’t want much this year,” and then the list starts! She used to love marking the J.C. Penney catalog (this makes me feel old) but sadly that is no longer produced. She has mastered list-making with sales ads. We laugh because every Monday we get a new “detailed” list. She goes through the ads and gives us descriptions (because she copies them) and prices but most of the time she forgets to tell us what store the items are from. She will put a wide range of items on each list, things from a recliner to powder-free latex gloves (who knew someone would want these for Christmas?).

Some things ALWAYS make her yearly list – slippers and a new bedspread and sheets. I don’t know why she always wants these things, but she does. Basically from the first of November until the last weekend before Christmas we get a list from her. It is ever-changing and always entertaining.

The crazy thing about this is that we normally don’t even have to get her anything that is on her list. I could literally go to the local dollar store and buy 20 different things and she would be so happy and content. I think she enjoys making the lists and changing the lists but the truth is she is content with whatever presents she receives.

I am a list maker as well. I don’t always write my lists down but I do always have a mental list of how I “think” things will or should work out. The difference between Missie and myself is that I don’t normally change my lists, life changes them.

Does this surprise God? Absolutely not! He knows the changes before they even happen. I was thinking about this on my way to work this week. I have said to several people that I feel like every area of my life is out of control. My mental lists are there but life is not working them out the way I had planned. Honestly, I think I make lists because it makes me feel like I am in control when in reality I am never in control. My thinking is if I am in control things won’t change or surprises won’t happen. However, things change every minute of every day.

This year especially has taught me that change happens and I have no control. Things have been so unpredictable and out of control in not only our world, but also in my personal life. If I think about it logically, I know that I don’t want to be in control of those things because I can’t carry the burden. God knew that as well and He provides a way out so I don’t need or have to have control.

When I want to be, or think I am, in control and things don’t work out the way I thought or planned it affects my contentment. I have a plan, it doesn’t work out, I am not pleased. That sounds harsh when I write it out like that, but really it’s the truth.

I am trusting in my plans and not giving God any part of it. Shouldn’t I have learned by now that God’s ways are so much better than mine? I have to reprogram my mind to act and think much like Missie. Make a plan, be happy to change it, embrace the change, be content. Isn’t that what God wants of me? Of us? I think so.

Scripture talks about it. Heb. 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” And my favorite is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Why, oh why, would I want to trust my plans and be responsible for my own contentment? I can’t and I shouldn’t. God’s plans are so much better than mine. When God changes my plans, He has a reason. I may not see it. I may not understand it. But God does!

Is it easy to give up the control? Maybe for you it is, but for me it is difficult. I have pondered on these thoughts this week. There are so many things that my heart is heavy and burdened about but the only way to lift the burden and lighten the load is to trust all of it over to God.

It sounds so easy and simple when I say that but for some reason, I make it so much harder. I just have to remind myself that God’s plans may change my list, He is in control, and trusting that will give me the contentment that I need.

Maybe we should all be like Missie. We could re-evaluate weekly our list, make the changes necessary, and then be content with whatever God provides. To do this we must trust the control of our list over to God, allow Him to change it, and find our ultimate contentment in Him.

I don’t know about you – but I haven’t made a Christmas list in a very long time. Maybe we should all make one knowing that the gift we ultimately receive in the end will be the best one because it is provided by our Heavenly Father!


Jill Johnson, a staff member at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, finds spiritual applications in her everyday experiences as a wife, mother, grandmother and Georgian. She is available to speak to your church's women's gatherings. Reach her at