It was the kind of Sunday that began with my husband throwing up thanks to the stomach bug (just when I thought we were in the clear) and ended with him working into the night on our broke-down van thanks to his headlamp and 7-yr old helper. It was the kind of Sunday that began with the
baby toddler (how is he a toddler already?) waking an hour earlier than normal thanks to the stomach bug and ended with me discovering spaghetti stuck in my hair thanks to the tantrum the baby toddler threw at lunch. The one where he threw his lunch on the floor and my head apparently. It was the kind of Sunday that was land mined with disappointments. Broken van & sick family meant another day stuck at home. And this extroverted momma had already had her fill this week of stuck at home via the stomach bug thank you very much. It also meant missing a baby shower I was very much looking forward to attending. And of course it meant more work. More laundry. More flexibility. And I just don’t like all of that. It was the kind of Sunday where my thankfulness list went something like this (all said in a dry, sarcastic tone):
- I’m thankful the baby is sick out his bum and not his mouth.
- I’m thankful our master bathroom is now thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after my other son got sick every.where.in.there.
- I’m thankful I was able to mop the entire downstairs after 2 days of kids tracking snow-slush-mud through the house.
- I’m thankful I managed to get out of my pj’s (at 2 pm) and take the
babytoddler on a walk.
- And I guess I can find it in my heart to be thankful for the fact that being stuck at home meant getting ahead on laundry and house cleaning and school planning and bills and phone calls and that the phone rep at xfinity gave me 3 months of HBO for free because she said I sounded nice.
So yeah, you get the picture of what kind of day it was if the highlights-the good parts– involved vomit and diarrhea and a broken van and bills and mopping.
What I wanted to do was throw a tantrum like my toddler. To cry and complain because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I don’t blame my 16 month old for behaving that way. That’s pretty much the full extend of his life skills: know what I want. Know what I don’t want. Communicate it by crying, grunting, throwing objects or myself onto the floor. So, yeah, he’s pretty much living up to his pay grade. And I’ve raised enough toddlers by now not to freak out. They won’t always grunt and cry to get what they want. They won’t always throw themselves on the ground or throw their food on the ground. It will pass because I teach them how to manage their desires and disappointments. And as they grow up, I teach them by modeling it. And on this particular Sunday, I modeled the mess out of it.
So here’s what it looked like for me. How I encountered what I liked, mostly what I didn’t like, and how I strove to manage my emotions and communicate moderately (i.e. NOT throw things or myself on the ground.)
- Instead of panic over illness and immobility, I literally just took deep breaths and took each hour as it came.
- instead of trying to force my schedule to work (at the expense of others) I accepted my limits. No fun baby shower today with other adults. Probably no fun in general today. It is what it is and I will chose to make the best of it.
- Instead of lashing out at others, I used good manners. Kind works spoken in a kind tone go a looooong way. Expressing appreciation and empathy go a looooong way.
- Instead of complaining, I took great strides to focus on gratitude. It would’ve been laughably easy to march through my day complaining. But I didn’t want to use my energy that way.
- Instead of viewing my family as the obstacle to my happiness and the object of my suffering, I chose to view them as my team, my support, a source of joy. Because they are!
- I showed empathy to my family and myself for the ways we were suffering. Let’s face it, none of us were have our dream day.
- I reminded myself that this day would pass, life wouldn’t always be this hard, and that I could get through it.
- I reminded my kids of the same.
- Most importantly, I was able to get through an unwanted day because I knew it was necessary training.
I have seen enough in my life by now to know that unwanted experiences are usually handed to me by a loving Father in Heaven who wants to train me, just like I train my toddler. It’s a kind of training that can feel difficult, confusing, painful, pointless or even merciless. But in reality this training is tailored to me- to strengthen weak beliefs, weak emotions, weak life skills, weak relationships, poor habits. This training is handed to me so I can learn to walk through life more and more like a mature adult and less like a toddler. It is handed to me to equip me for my life’s journey.
In another life I trained Marines. If I was training someone from MARSOC, their training would include sitting them on a stationary bike and strapping an oxygen depletion mask onto their face. Not fun. More than one passed out. And not once was I able to break their fall. But this training was necessary to equip them for the mountainous terrain they were to encounter in combat. To strengthen their lung capacity. To equip them.
I used to think that strength and maturity was a natural progression of age (wisdom comes with age, right?) but it’s not. Experience comes with age. Wisdom comes from how you choose to handle your experiences. It’s the strength to ask ‘what can I learn from this’ and then take the difficult steps to change. It’s the courage to ask a trusted friend or spouse for feedback, to ask God for help, and then to take action. It’s choosing to surround yourself with wise people. Wisdom comes from choosing training over foolishness.
Bottom line, training is hard. That’s the whole point. It pushes you, stretches you, reveals the truth about your abilities and inabilities. And it makes you stronger if you allow it to accomplish its goal. For the past 6 years, my husband and I have been a part of a group designed to help us train. It’s a support group of sorts that meets via conference call every week. We confess our shortcomings and our victories, learn about what makes us tick and ways we might better cooperate with God and our unique design. It’s hard work, requires sacrifice, and it’s awesome. It’s training.
Perhaps the holiday season poses fresh training opportunities for you? Navigating family visits, Christmas shopping, winter illness, traveling…Whatever unwanted experiences you find yourself in, I pray you are able to embrace the training it offers. May God bless our efforts.