Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I'm a planner.  I'm one of those freaks who likes lists and schedules and routines.  I make big decisions carefully, with lots of annoying research and consultations to back my reasoning for doing something so I can justify it later if need be.

So, when I bought a new car within two-and-a-half-hours of walking onto the CarMax lot, no one was more surprised than me.  Whew!

So long, Sparkle.
Saturday night, I drove to work at Pottery Barn Kids at the mall as usual.  My 2004 Chrysler Sebring named "Sparkle" was fine.  Then, I turn the key in the ignition to go home....and nothing.  My husband and girls came out to give me a jump, but still nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Sparkle was toast.

The next day, we had her towed to a local Firestone where they discovered the entire "Power Control Module" (whatever that is - apparently it's like the heart and brain of the vehicle) was shot.  We could've had it towed to the dealer, spent hours and probably an arm-and-a-leg to find out whether it would be super-expensive or super-duper-expensive to fix her...or, we could bid farewell to ole Sparkle and trust God to provide something right for our budget/family/timing.

It was a stressful weekend, I won't lie.

We had kicked off the weekend by getting up at 5:45am on Saturday and having a miserably unsuccessful garage sale where we made a whopping $20.  I was already tired and annoyed by the time I got to work, I never would have guessed my inconveniences were just beginning.  Ugh.

Days like that are rough.  They feel SO FRUSTRATING, and yet I'm left at the brink of insanity trying desperately to remind myself that really, truly, seriously this is NOT A BIG DEAL.  My family is safe. My family is healthy.  My needs are met.  God is in control and working for my good.

These are all true things.  True things that I had to repeat in my mind over and over and over again Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as my car met her demise and my anxiety rose to new levels.  It was a big deal to me, in this time and place, where my worries were all muddled up into dollar signs and mechanical lingo that was far beyond my realm of understanding.  Not to mention we hadn't even LOOKED at cars or considered what we might get if this ever happened.

But, God knew.  And, fortunately my brother is a Consumer Reports Guru, and my dad has actually built cars, and my husband has a level head that makes practical decisions under pressure.  So, when we came across a solid Toyota Camry that fit our criteria, the clouds parted and we finally felt like a clear answer was in front of us.

Meet "Sprinkles" - yes, my girls named it of course.
I'm glad it turned out to be a rip-the-band-aid-off kind of decision.  I simply do not have the time right now to stay up late reading reviews of cars and building up all kinds of concerns I have no control over (which I seriously would have done if given the opportunity!)  I'm so grateful my car just went ka-put! and I wasn't stranded somewhere unsafe or worse, with my kids with me on the side of the road or in some kind of dangerous situation.  If you have to be stuck somewhere, the mall parking lot is not the worst place in the world.

It was a whirlwind weekend.  God provided a car, and for that I'm grateful.  But, more than that, He shook my faith just enough to bring it back into focus just how well He cares for me.  I pray He provides me the faith to trust Him with a tighter budget, with the care of this new car, and hopefully not have to go through another crazy weekend any time soon to stir-up my gratitude for His provision.

Sometimes the car doesn't start.  Sometimes the future doesn't make sense.  Sometimes plans and budgets and expectations get stalled or stuck or go ka-put.  But, thank goodness, even if the Check Engine light comes on, the Power Control Module of my faith is safe and secure in the hands of the One who restores it constantly.  There's no better warranty in life than that.

Q&A: Therapy For My Friend?

Friday, September 26, 2014

I have a friend that could probably benefit from going to therapy.  She's going through a difficult time in her life and I feel like my help and advice as a friend has reached it's limit.  How do I encourage her to go see a therapist?
Frustrated Friend

Dear Frustrated,

For anyone who is wanting someone they know to go to therapy, I have three important words for you:  Go to therapy.  Yes, you.  

If you've never been to therapy before, then this will be a new adventure for you - one which you can take back and share with your friend each week and offer her your experience on the topic of "What's therapy like?"  If you have been to therapy before, then you know it can benefit more than just your own life - it inevitably affects those around you as well.  (If it doesn't, you might consider changing therapists). 

By going to therapy, you can flat-out ask your therapist to offer you some deeper insight into your friendship and how you can encourage your friend throughout this difficult season of her life.  Your steps towards a healthier life might just rub off on your friend and inspire her to take some action as well.  

By sharing your positive experience with therapy with your friend you automatically do two things:  1) diminish the shame and stigma that therapy is solely reserved for those who "have problems" and 2) endorse that getting help is a strength and not a weakness.  You might even offer to go with your friend to therapy if or when she decides to begin that process.

In the meantime, take a deep breath and a step back.  You are not responsible for your friend's process or actions.  You can't fast-forward time, make decisions for her, or burden yourself with things that are beyond your control (or hers).  But, you can pray for her, pray with her, and just SIT with her.  Don't underestimate the power of being present.  Often, the deepest friendships are built more in the silences we share than the words we speak.  You sound like a great friend - sometimes just being present with her is best therapy she could ever get.

Ice Cream for Dinner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I don't particularly believe in "finding balance" in this life.  I think balance is a myth that's mostly idealized in our minds as an un-obtainable reality we long for.  BUT, I do believe in the ebb and flow of chaos!

If parenthood has taught me anything (and of course it has taught me many, many things) it's that my expectations in this life are forever blindsided by these little humans.  Mostly it comes in incredibly rewarding ways - but, flu bugs and bad dreams muddle up the best laid plans in this business.

When the chaos ebbs, life is normal.  There are the occasional storms of tantrums and troublemaking, but for the most part the routines sustain us.  That is, we coast through the normal in preparation for the possible hurricane lurking in the distance.

My oldest daughter will start kindergarten next year.  (That hurricane will come with it's own challenges, but it's still a ways off.)  But, due to schedules and insurance and a whole mess of unimportant details, I decided to go ahead and get her "Kindergarten Shots" taken care of just a couple weeks ago.

I'm a two-birds-one-stone kinda gal, so I brought both my girls into the Pediatrician for their annual "well" check-ups.  What I thought would be a weigh 'em, measure 'em, sort of experience turned into a full-fledged work up.  I'm thankful, don't get me wrong.  I'm SO grateful we live in a time and place where my kids can get their eyes and ears examined, blood pressure taken, etc. and it's part of a normal check-up and not some extraordinary gift that comes once in a lifetime like it is for too many children in other parts of this world.  We take it for granted so often, and I recognize this is an amazing privilege to just "go to the doctor" when they are not even sick!

However, I did NOT prep my eldest for her shots...and the time had finally come.  I wouldn't advise someone to necessarily not tell their kid about getting shots or not - my advice would first and foremost be "You know your kid best."  Period.

So, knowing my kid, knowing that she would have worked her anxious, sensitive-little-self into a tizzy (and by tizzy I mean blood-curdling-scream-fest-panic-attack that would sound like I was skinning a jaguar, yeah...kind of dramatic) I chose to hold off the news until the very last minute where I could plead innocence and blame the doctors instead.  (This may be a parenting cop-out, but at the end of the day I'm the one who she needs to trust most.) Whew.

So, I had laid awake all night before, worried that my precious child would find out I was a total TRAITOR as I gradually nudged her into the arms of the nurses and doctors who held her fate in a silver tray of FOUR shots they needed to inject into her little body.  (Please do not send me letters about vaccinations, sorry and thank you.)

It could have gone worse...but I'm not sure how.  It was over in probably a few seconds, but it felt like an entire decade went by as I held her and the extremely kind nurses held her down as she screamed in terror.  Yes, I'm making this sound awful - cause it was awful - but, then it was over.  It was over and I held her and assured her she was safe and okay and very, very brave.

And, as I explained to her in the car later, it was "a little bit of very bad for a whole lot of good".  How many times do I need to learn this lesson in my own life?  Again and again, apparently.  There are hard decisions in this life that seem impossible in the moment, but you know it will add up to long-term joy.  There's endless examples of foregoing temporary, instant gratification in exchange for greater goodness later.

The chaos flowed that day.  It was one of those weird days where nothing seemed quite right, schedules were off, and nothing else mattered beyond my reach.  We rented 3 redbox dvds, picked up Happy Meals and headed home emotionally exhausted.

But, as the eye of the storm came into sight and we restored our normality slowly, I took with me the reminder of how God provides us the bravery we need when the hurricanes come, when our days are blindsided with chaos, or when hard decisions don't always seem to make sense.

And then we ate ice cream for dinner.  

Not all instant gratification is bad, you know.  A little bit of good can go a long way at the end of a day covered in band-aids.  The waves of chaos subsided that night as we recovered from our weird little day.

We went to bed with bellies full of dessert and hearts full of relief, and I thanked God for the crazy days that help me appreciate the normal days.  The hard days He uses to shape and grow me.  The difficult days that seem full of terror and confusion.  The burdensome days that seem futile and never-ending.  Those are the days that bring the greatest rewards long-term.  The days that end in ice cream.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Some nights, I just can't sleep.  It's no wonder my girls are zombies since I'm a terrible sleeper myself (thanks, insomniac gene pool!)  It is not rare for me to get up in the middle of the night after tossing and turning and attempt to relax or even be productive.  No doubt, many blogs have been written in the wee hours of the morning.

Last night, though, after catching up on some reading homework for school, I needed to reset my mind.  Nighttime tends to be highly emotional or worrisome for many of us, and I'm no exception.  If I let my mind wander, it usually ends up in worst-case-scenarios or jumping-to-conclusions or guilt-ridden-doubts...not exactly conducive to sweet dreams!  (Ya hear me?)

There's only one reliable source I know to turn to where I can always calm my anxious heart and find peace, and that's the Word of God.  Too often I turn to it as a last resort rather than my first resource...but, last night was a perfectly timed reminder that it is absolutely the best place to seek my refuge.

Sometimes I feel like I avoid the Bible because it seems too daunting - I don't know where to start reading.  It seems confusing.  I don't want to think that hard, I just need hope right now.  Do you ever feel this way?  I know I'm not alone in this!  Even after years of studying it and reading it, I have to combat doubts that keep me from it's active, living truths.  Then, as soon as I start reading it, all those doubts drift away.  The Holy Spirit breaths new life into the words my eyes see and my heart starts to interpret the truths before me.

It's not always tranquility and hope that stir my soul.  Sometimes, it's conviction.  The active, living Word of God is meant to MOVE us, to get us looking inward, outward, and putting into practice the faith it restores.  For some reason, I was led to read Galatians last night.  I chose The Message translation because it was 3am...and my brain needed to just rest in the easy absorption of a new lesson.

Anyway - it moved me.  It reminded me IN BOLD PRINT that I'm not in control.  It spoke to me so clearly that it might as well have begun "And, EMILY, this is for you..."  So, I'm sharing it with you today, hoping some of these words are meant to hit home for you as well.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter, the whole book of Galations...well, the whole book of the Bible for that matter!  But, for right now, just let God rock your heart with these verses below.

Letting go of control is a heck of a way to kick off the week!  So, here we go:

Paraphrased from The Message, Galatians 3:

2 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?…
5 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?…
11The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him.
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