Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Benefits of the Unexpected
It seems easy sometimes to come up with so many reasons why things are terrible, why a thing won't work out, why it would have been better if it had gone my way. Really, this whole thing lately has been that way for me starting a year ago.
I kept my grandmother, to visit with her and earn some money. We were going to buy a second car! Finally, no more driving the big huge bus of a van EVERYWHERE watching the gas go guzzling out at an astonishing rate of 2 gas stations per mile! It was going to be awesome! The first week she was here, the van engine went and we were without any vehicle. AND, guess we got to fix that one instead of buy a second car.
Then during the early summer our family went camping. We planned an awesome trip where we went up to Bar Harbor, ME and actually camped inside Acadia National Park for a week. I was all up for it! In fact, I'm probably the most enthusiastic camper in our family! Hiking, bike riding, fishing, swimming, looking at the wildlife, and the general thrill of outdoor cooking and living in a tent. We broke a second van while ours was still in the shop. (Thankfully we did not have to pay for all the repairs) We spent a good deal of our time riding in a taxi, getting the van repaired, and just dealing with that in general. Not what I would have considered ideal.
AND...it had been a year since Renna was born...I was getting back in shape. I found my ab muscles again, I could go for a trot, and even made it through the mile run on July 4th without collapsing, all under the excuse of running with James who wanted to participate. Getting into shape is a good thing! SO when I discovered that I needed foot surgery because of a massive bunion on my left foot, we planned it for August with the idea that we would get it over with. And I paid a boat load of money in preparation for the surgery for a cool hands free crutch so I wouldn't be a complete invalid during the 3 months of NO WEIGHT BEARING that I was supposed to do. Not what I planned, but I was excited to get rid of the pain and get it over with and move on.
Oh...but not so fast...we thought we'd have a baby instead. I found out just before my preop visit that I was pregnant. That throws monkey wrenches all over the garage. What was going on? I was trying to be positive here, but goodness? It seemed like everything just kept going differently that what it was supposed to.
We actually didn't have our van back for most of the summer. Spent additional money trying to fix the AC only to find that after pouring close to $1000 into it, there was a leak in the back and in order to actually fix the thing it was going to take another $1000! So, we basically burned the first grand and never did anything with the AC.
I started off this pregnancy more discouraged than any of the others. Not because I wasn't haply to have another little one added to our family, but because I didn't feel like my body was ready to do that. And selfish me, I wanted my foot fixed and now they wouldn't do it because of all the x-rays involved.
Then things started happening to make this entire winter crazy. I had been excited about teaching school this year, instead I started the year with morning sickness and just wanted to die most days. I was thrilled about canning so much from our garden, but I found myself, once again, depending on other people to put through my grand schemes. I set up new chore systems to get the kids more involved in the house work, but I couldn't feel good and keep up with them long enough to help them learn the new system. I also had some complications that put me resting on the couch right in the first trimester.
I pulled out a little during the second trimester and though I might survive. But Brandon took a turn in the sick department and things were so busy that while I had energy, I was using every ounce of it to hold the family together while he was recovering. We made it through November and December and I was feeling good. Early January I was motivated to clean house, make freezer meals for Feb, planned to make some for April and all sorts of other things knowing that I'd want to be prepared for after the baby arrived.
By mid January I was forced to sit on the couch and watch others work around me and all those freezer meals started coming out and being used. Instead of helping be stability during Brandon's busiest time of the year, I was another part of his job that he had to take care of. I cried more about that than anything else.
February seemed almost a complete loss. I went from thinking I might get better to being required to lay on the bed in a horizontal position as much as I could possibly stand it. And stayed in that situation until just last week. Again, not the most convenient thing. I can think of many ways things could have been done differently. I mean hasn't God ever hear of efficient use of time???
Brandon took a turn at the so busy he can't see straight- and really is still there. So many deadlines, so little time. This week I can be up and he was hoping to get caught up on work. That seems reasonable. So, I got some stomach bug Sunday night that kept me in bed all Monday morning, and he had a meeting Monday night- not much work time in his office for that. I think sometimes people think that if he's just home, he can get his work done. But really, if I'm off laying about on the bed upstairs, he's getting nothing accomplished! So what that his office is in the house! Tuesday I felt better, so good day for him to work? Nope...not on your life. He had to make bank deposits, run errands, get more salt for the water softener system, etc. He was back by lunch, but then while changing a water filter one of the pipes broke and we suddenly had no water in the house. Of course we needed the right supplies to fix it and those were in town. He got the pipes repaired and the water back on just at dinner time. (Thankfully a friend made dinner for us.)
I encouraged him to do some work after dinner, but things were so messy and I'm so much like a blob of Jell-o these days after being on bed rest for 5 weeks that I move slower than a slug! I worked on cleaning up the kitchen while he got the kids to clean up toys, get them ready for bed and then did the bedtime routine thing. So, at 7:45pm he can start his day of work. He'll get a little over 2 hours before he has to go to bed in order to make it through the next day.
The point is: We've been going in circles of our expected perfect world crashing down around us for quite some time. I can't begin to explain what this has done to our finances, our communication as a married couple, and our exhaustion level. It's just been one thing after another. However, it's interesting how our reactions have changed somewhat.
I can recall being frustrated about the van breaking down, about not being able to get the car. Then as I began to yield to these things that were out of my control, it became sadness instead.
It makes me picture a child who has seen that it's a sunny day outside and is excited to go and play. He has been anxiously waiting to take his new bike out for a spin and this is the day! Helmet- check, bathroom break- check, shoes and socks- check, water- check, parental permission- check. He runs to the door, throws it open and finds a sudden dark cloud has covered the sky. He hears the sound of thunder and in 3 minutes there is rain cascading down in little rivers all over. There's nothing he can do, but turn around, close the door and I can see him with tears welling up in his eyes. Mom and Dad didn't say no, so he can't be mad at them. All his stuff was there, so he couldn't be mad at siblings for misplacing it. Nope, there's no one to blame except God. Why did God decide that it had to rain right then? He must have known that somewhere something needed rain, but not here. It just brings sadness.
That's where I got stuck- not in the angry mode, but in the sad mode. The mode of why can't I get on the same page as God here? If I had known it was going to rain, I wouldn't have bothered getting ready to go outside. I would have spent my time wisely doing something more productive. All that effort, wasted.
Gradually, I'm learning that the effort is not wasted though. I haven't been able to see the entire picture, but I see some of it. I have no idea why we needed to spend money on the van AC only to quit in the middle. I really don't know why it seemed like God prompted us to by a $300 hands free crutch that now resides in my attic hoping for the day that it gets some use. But there are other things I've seen that I wouldn't change at all.
The van breaking down caused me to slow down and really take time to visit with both of my Grandmothers in ways I wouldn't have otherwise. We would have been busy going places and seeing things- but instead I heard stories and listened to days when they were younger and got to enjoy puttering around the house with them.
Same thing on the camping trip. It slowed us way down. AND I've always loved camping for it's ability to help us learn how to deal with the unexpected. Haha! I wasn't expecting to figure out how to keep tons of van gear dry at a campsite with only one picnic table and two tarps duct taped together! But it was an experience in dealing with the unexpected!
In fact, that happened most of the summer. I had planned to take the kids swimming more, to the library more, just anywhere more. Instead, we worked in the garden together. Jonathon learned how to take care of his portion pretty independently. We were able to minister to a foreign missionary family that came and stayed for several weeks. We finished off our garage into a guest room that has already been a blessing numerous times for people coming to visit us.
When Brandon had a hard time, I learned just exactly how much I COULD keep going when I got tired. I found ways I could enjoy little moments- like walking to get the mail, or just walking in circles around in the driveway while talking on the phone to a friend.
November came and we went to GA for a month and I discovered the value of being positive when Brandon comes "in from work" as our roles were reversed for 4 weeks and he was marvelous at maintaining peace and order when I came back home. I learned what a great teacher he is and his consistency with the children is the backbone of success in our family.
Then January hit and I was on the couch. I learned just how much I could expect my children to help. I would tell Jonathon to pull the casserole out of the oven. He'd say, "It's too hot! I can't!" I'd look at him and say, "Jonathon, I'm not supposed to get up. Either you have to get it out, or it's going to burn and we won't be able to eat it for dinner." I didn't have the option of doing it for him. Guess what- the casserole came out of the oven and he survived!
That boy is a new kid now- thanks to my weeks of bed rest. Where he was very whiny, now he's usually cheerful about helping. Renna loves him as her main defender, entertainment, and helper and he takes her on like it's his responsibility. No one has to ask him to help her. Mama getting out of the way has developed initiative in him like nothing else could have. I'm too much of a control freak! The other day, he took a phone call, took the message, looked at Brandon and me, explained the request, and then said, "I'll got take care of it." He's 9! And he responded in a way that many adults wouldn't have. When he starts running out of clothes, I've seen him go put some in the washing machine! When he sees the playroom dirty, I've seen him go clean it up so that everyone can watch a movie sooner. One day, he knew everyone needed to do school, but I was still in bed and he motivated all his siblings to do all of their independent work without even waking me up. Math, reading, handwriting, Bible- all done. The younger kids could read their math word problems, so he read to them!
James has begun to notice needs and take care of them himself. He has been most observant to my water bottle- refilling it every time it gets low. I've watched him open up and discuss observations and ask questions about things that I never would have taken time for before. He takes more time to open up, and as a result of me having to sit all the time, he comes in and talks- about dreams, about life, about babies. It's wonderful!
Jeff has discovered that he can make my coffee. I wasn't there to train him, so he got Jonathon to teach him. Talk about training in delegating- I know lots of adults who can't do that! He's asserted some independence in some unexpected ways. While I've been immobile, he's discovered that he likes to fix his hair and takes pride in spiking it up at least once a day if not several!
Brandon has them on a system for unloading groceries now that never would have happened with me in the way. They all haul them in and then each child has a different section he's in charge of. Jonathon and Joseph get fridge items. James gets pantry things. Jeff takes the freezer stuff down to the chest freezer and Rachel puts away the fresh fruit. This past Sunday, I watched my children completely put away all the groceries with almost no assistance from me. One didn't know where the diapers went and another wasn't sure if the potatoes were a pantry item or a fresh fruit item. We took care of that and off they went.
As a rule they used to complain every time we cleaned up. No more. I think much of this is Brandon's consistent discipline, but I love it! I come in and say the living room is messy and it needs to be cleaned up and they all say, "Ok, Mama." and do it. Sometimes they still need help getting the dregs of the job done, but it's nothing like it used to be.
So, kids and their independence! They are becoming hard workers, with good attitudes! I'd go back on bed rest for a month to see that happen in a heart beat!
We've learned to save money as a family too. I pay them for other jobs and half goes to them and half goes in a family fun jar. Right now we are saving to build a tree house. There's team work in that- everyone is helping and everyone will benefit, but they get some individual reward out of it as well.
I've had time to read more, study more, craft more, keep up to date with people more, plan a Bible Study and lead it, and pray more for those that are on my heart. I've had time to pray for my husband more often, praise his good qualities, and see ways that he is a blessing to our family that I don't normally notice.
I've had time to concoct new visions for ways to deal with things, research other school ideas, and clean out nooks and crannies of my bedroom- in the name of decluttering.
I've had time to ponder over some of the new ways God has met me, changed me, and molded me in the last 10 years and put some of it into thoughts that might make sense to someone else.
I've had some precious quality time with Renna, who has been my bed rest cuddle bug and comes in to keep me company on a regular basis. We talk, play, or often she just sits with me while I read, type, or watch something. Sometimes we both fall asleep.
All in all, there have been benefits- big ones- to our turned upside down circumstances. There are more coming around each new corner- I just know it. I will forever make my plans, I just have to. I can't live life unprepared, but I'm gradually figuring out that when things get turned aside, or upside down, or completely swept off the table, I can live each day at a time and trust that this will be good too. Most of all, I'm finding that no matter how much excitement and adventure I plan into my ideal life, God is going to one-up me every time. I can see it as a one-up or I can look at it as a little kid that is mad because he didn't get the flavor ice cream that he wanted- even if he wanted vanilla and what he got was Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk.
My prayer going forward is that I will learn to embrace the unexpected with joy. To see it as an opportunity for God to bless me and to live life cheerfully and thriving in the adventure. I'll make my tentative plans in case God decides to take a day off and have a dull day, but after that, I hope to work on loving the stories that He writes in my life- the unbelievable, ridiculous ones.
I recently heard the quote again, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." Why? because they can't see that the food right in front of them, though it isn't what they requested, is the most delicious thing they could have hoped for if they would just taste it with positive expectation. I, for one, do not have any intention of starving to death at such a feast!