Life is nuts. All of life. Seemingly all at once.
Have you ever been there? You know, when the totality of life feels out of control. Where there’s not one mode you can get in where things are in order. It might not truly be every part of your life, but if a few of the dozens of balls you’ve been juggling start dropping, everything seems sure to follow. Everything that matters is slipping through your fingers. Chaos.
Finances. Physical Health. Mental Health. Spiritual Health. Work. School. Marriage. Kids. Home Maintenance. Car Maintenance. Community. Church. Friends. Extended Family. Nation. World.
Any one of these things in chaos can lead to great personal stress. When you see that several of them are chaotic at once, that’s a personal crisis.
If you are like me and my husband we have two natural ways of dealing with crisis like this:
First and foremost, denial.
Just pretend it’s not really real and hope it will go away or magically improve. Hey: don’t laugh or shake your head, you know you do it too. If we don’t have the energy or extra emotion to worry or deal with it, then we just go with denial for a while and see if that will work out this time.
It doesn’t. It gets worse. Ignoring a problem makes it much worse almost every single time. It gets bigger and absolutely undeniable. And urgent.
Someone once said, “Discipline begets discipline.” That leads us to the second thing we do. We make a plan.
We evaluate the above areas of life and make some tangible goals at turning the chaos back toward order. Most of you do some form of this with your New Year’s Resolutions. In our case, we plan date nights back into our schedule to prioritize our marriage. We plan time off during the year to take care of our needs for rest, for extra family time, for stress-relief. We make a reading list to keep our minds healthy and active. And so on.
2018 was no exception. A couple of the areas mentioned above were either slipping through our fingertips or seemed about to. A plan helps us get a better grip.
For example, we acknowledged that we needed to get back to being more intentional with our money. (Because nothing slips through our fingers faster than spare change.) A plan to stop the chaos. A plan to just get back to basics and live by a budget. A great tool for doing that is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, or FPU. It was being offered at our church on Sunday nights at the beginning of the year and the timing was perfect for us.
We also live with four teenagers at home. Our two oldest kids are away at John Brown University. But our four others, aged 17, 16, 16, 15, can cause a little chaos. Okay a LOT. There are some challenges and opportunities we face as an adoptive family that are, ummm–atypical.
So, Once Upon a Time (yesterday), we were getting ready to leave home for FPU when one such challenge/opportunity arose.
As we were walking out the door, Boy Child asked to watch TV while we were gone. My husband investigated Boy Child’s current screentime usage and found that he was trending at twice the daily allotment of phone time we had set for him. So the answer about TV for the night was an emphatic, “No.”
Actually, it was way nicer than that. It was, “If one of your sisters turns on the TV while they do their homework in the living room, then you can sit with them and watch too.”
Then we left.
Granted, knowing what we know about how a simple NO response like that can lead to a quick emotional meltdown in Boy Child we probably shouldn’t have left. But we were doing what we do. Remember Step One above? Denial? Out of sight, out of mind. Let’s get the grown-ups out of here and on to “our thing” which will bring Financial. Peace. Amen.
We weren’t halfway to church when a text came in from Girl Child (see extra comment below).***
“Well, Boy Child made Other Girl Child cry– really bad… We just want you guys here…”
I don’t think we hesitated a second. We turned around and prayed all the way home.
We prayed for wisdom. We prayed for reconciliation. We prayed for our family values of Love, Truth, & Joy to be restored in our home.
Our family’s Christmas theme this year was Peace. The first of the weekly advent lessons we had on peace referred to the Christmas Truce of 1914. At the most basic level, peace is the absence of war. Our goal for our family on this night was simply to cease fighting. All of the chaos would not instantly become perfect order, but if we could have a truce, that would be a success.
When we got home, we worked it out together. We hugged and listened. We shared some feelings. We read some Bible. We all agreed to try harder to love and not hate. Pretty basic family-type-stuff. We achieved “truce,” or in other words, “success.”
Just before going to bed, Other Girl Child (the one who had been hurt and crying) thanked us for coming home. She said, “Instead of Financial Peace….you chose Family Peace.”
gulp. sniff. sniff.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Step Three is so important. Actually, it’s should be more like Step ½. It should precede all the others. Prayer. We pray for our family every day. The prayer for wisdom on the drive home was not a reactionary response because of the crisis. It was a continuation of a conversation we keep having with the Lord about how to best disciple these precious souls He’s entrusted to us. And He frankly loves to turn our chaos back into order for us. He loves to give us peace. But He is the source. He is the answer. He is the Peace.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…
(Ephesians 2:14 NIV).
So if your life is a little (or a lot) nuts: by all means (after denial fails again) make a plan to improve things. But don’t forget the One who will graciously give you the answers, the wisdom, the ability to see a way through. Have a talk with Him about it. He promises He won’t let you slip through his fingers.
“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).
***I just remembered while writing this blog that we had pulled the car over to the shoulder to investigate a strange noise when this text came into my phone. I don’t believe I would have seen this text until after we had already picked up a person who needed a ride to and from FPU, at which point it would have felt “too late to go back now.” I haven’t heard the mystery noise in the car since. #GodThing.