A Year of Habits, no. 12

Lately I’ve been pondering and marveling at the infinitely personalized experiences that make up each individual’s road map in life.  I’m amazed at the love and power God has to create these individual journeys for us, and his ability to nourish, test, bless and stretch us as we travel through mortality.  Sometimes the refiner’s fire comes through huge trials and sometimes it comes through a thousand little things, but we can all be assured that it does and will come for each of us.  Mine, of late, has come in the thousand little things variety, but I am thankful to be counted worthy of refinement of all.  I am grateful for my personalized version of testing, stretching and growth.

In thinking about this, I’ve also marveled a bit at the cumulative effect that individual challenges and refining can have on a family.  While all ten of us have our own particular journey to experience, we’re still a family, and personal stretching affects the group as well as the individual.  It’s been interesting to watch, to see how trials in some areas make us more patient in others, how exhaustion and worry in some moments brings new challenges in others.  What an extraordinary thing family life is.

ALL of our children have been emotionally off-balance this week.  More than once my husband and I have looked at each other in bafflement at what could possibly have ignited the emotional meltdowns that have occurred.  On one evening we had all eight of our children crying and yelling at the same time, all for different reasons, some of which we knew and understood and others which remain a mystery.  On that night we looked at each other and laughed, for that’s really your only good option in a case like that.  To cry or get upset ourselves only makes things worse, while chuckling gave us another 60 minutes of endurance.  It took us close to three hours that night to get our children in bed and to sleep, and blissful was the quiet that followed!  (I enjoyed it for about 10 minutes before falling asleep myself, too tired to be good for anything after the marathon.)

On a funny note, I was driving this week with my youngest three in the van when out of the blue my five year old son belted out these words:  “I’ll follow you until you love me!”  followed by the sweet little voice of my three year old daughter singing “Papa-watt-see!”   I shook my head and laughed.  You’d never know they have big brothers and sisters, would you?  Even the baby ended up humming the melody to herself as we drove along.  I thought again about what a delicate thing it is to find balance in our home right now, how much the little ones pick up on, how much protection and sheltering they still need, in contrast with the needs of our older ones to test their wings, have parents who are more spontaneous, more adventurous, more relaxed.  I have no idea if I’m getting it right or not.  What I would give for a lot more experience right now!

On Thursday morning I went to the Dentist for a root canal.  It was my first experience of this kind, and given my track record for having unusual experiences with dental work, I was nervous.  I asked a lot of people about them, and the universal response was that they’re no big deal.  So I went.  I came home.  And for three days the pain got worse and worse until my jaw and head were throbbing in time with my heartbeat, my vision was blurry, I couldn’t bear to eat anything.   I couldn’t think clearly, couldn’t bear to talk, couldn’t sleep.  Lucky me.   Another  special dental experience!   I was finally able to reach my dentist on Saturday and he quickly agreed with me that antibiotics were in order (my face was beginning to swell and my cheek was starting to feel warm to the touch).  Never mind that I’d just finished a round of antibiotics the day the RCT was done.   As I was experiencing this I couldn’t help but think of people living in conditions where antibiotics aren’t accessible, of people who have experienced the ravages of war, gangrene, and pain far more intense than mine.

I felt so humble.

Tonight the antibiotics are taking effect (else this post would never have been written), bringing manageable pain and the expectation that in another day or so I’ll be living normally again.  I am grateful.  Once again, I have received my daily bread.

There is a single phrase which as paraded through my mind all week:  “That faith might increase in the earth.”  As I have looked at some of my small refining experiences as well as the experiences of others I know and love, I’ve concluded that these things happen in order to increase our faith.  They happen so we can lift and serve one another, so we will fall on our knees and seek help and direction beyond our natural abilities.  They happen so that we, people who feel weak and simple in the face of life’s challenges, can testify that Jesus Christ saves us.  We can know that His grace is sufficient for the day.  We can learn for ourselves that He “fainteth not, neither is weary” and that He “giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”  He gives us challenges so we can learn all these things, and then he asks us to use these lessons to lift and strengthen others.

With all my heart I want to live a life that somehow increases faith in the earth.  I know that God is real.  I am one of the least of His daughters, yet He loves me enough to work in my life.  I am growing in the habit of seeing His arm, His help in my daily life, which might, in the end, be the most essential habit of all.

And for the sake of a traditional report, which I haven’t written much of late:
1.  Maintain and Reclaim is still my plan of attack on the house.  It’s still working.
2.  Finish.   I’ve been finishing lots of little things (don’t ask me why I put them off) and it feels good.  I have also been SO disciplined about not buying anything!  I’m working away at my plan to use what we need and get rid of the rest.
3.  Exercise.  Not so good.  Does not being able to eat for 3 1/2 days count for anything?
4.  Planning.  I’ve got to increase my efforts here, especially with soccer & lacrosse season upon us.  Even so, I must say that I’m not as stressed as usual with our crazy season looming.  We’ll get through it ok.
5.  Thoughtfulness.  Not so good this week.  I need to extend myself more, and make more time for service.
6.  Reading.  Still working on the same book, which is both bad and good.  Bad, because I intended to finish by now, but good, because I have this strange habit of reading 4 or 5 books at once but I’m not letting myself start another until I’m done.
I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all that comes to mind.  I’m off for a welcome night’s rest.

Wishing you a truly wonderful week, Jennifer

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