When life throws you a major hurdle, how do you survive, not give up, and create a memorable moment in the midst of difficulties?
|Time for a break, or way past time?|
After we lost our home in a wildfire, survived a season of joblessness, and walked through my son’s and husband’s significant medical emergencies, our family got pretty good at recognizing when we needed a break. Sometimes we waited too long and it felt like we had zoomed through stop signs in our path, which left us drained and exhausted. This season of great loss, punctuated with deaths and other challenges, spurred us to look within a one-to-two hour driving radius for simple outings, such as visiting museums, seeing wildflowers in the spring, trying different beaches to find our favorite one, and driving a bit to enjoy cultural opportunities.
What is a right turn?
During very stressful times, taking a right turn by creating an intentional moment is so important. It can include something small like a walk on the beach or visiting a pretty place to change the topic for a while. Eventually, we developed this saying: “We need a right turn. Let’s try…”
How can right turns help?
When you’re surrounded by bills from a lengthy hospital stay, or mounds of paperwork, coping with the loss of a family member, or confronted yet again with a difficult situation, it’s very easy to let the problem creep into your sense of self. Like ink bleeding into fabric, the stress weeds its way into every area of your life, exerting itself, until it threatens to choke out gratitude, simplicity, joy, and fruitfulness.
It’s important is to make room for other things so you realize you’re not defined by the crisis; rather, you are walking through it. Together. Planning something to lift your spirits renews your commitment to remain a team and not be divided in how you handle the pressure.
Right turns sometimes come unexpectedly.
For several days in a row I’ve had priority interrupts (like the car dying) and found myself out of the office at unexpected times. Before our years of upheaval I’d get frustrated. Now I take a breath, and ask, “Is there anything positive in this situation?” (For example, at least it didn’t die on the freeway or hurt anyone.)
Taking time-outs for refreshment can help your family remain close in the midst of a great change. It can be a hike, baking something tempting, or seeking out someplace to let your mind rest from the trial at hand.
|Time for a break, or way past time?|
Right turns refill your creativity.
The right turn can also work for stagnant writing by bringing new freshness to your characters and perspective. Sometimes I need a change of pace. Connecting with a friend over coffee; planning a party; doing something thoughtful for someone; walking alone on the beach; researching some gemstones (since I’m a gemologist and gems feature in my writing and speaking); taking a sketch pad or photo and starting a painting. Doing something wildly creative in a different venue can reinvigorate my writing.
I write tween fiction and feature a talking dragonfly in my upcoming fantasy story. To better connect with gestures he might make, I studied pictures and painted them before writing his character profile.
|Need to understand your character? Paint, draw, or create them anew.|
These paintings won’t make it to the Met, but it was a helpful exercise to loosen the gears.
When my mother faced breast cancer, and I couldn’t be with her for the whole journey, I painted a huge flower arrangement. With each brush stroke, I prayed through my grief for what she was facing. With each shadow or line, I let God heal the rift in my heart from her struggles. Then I presented it to her, so she had a tangible hug from me whenever she needed it. Another example: when my in-laws recently sold their home, I painted a picture of it. I prayed for the changes ahead for them with each brush stroke. I asked God to bless their new neighbors and bring them hidden joy with this big transition. It was a nice painting to give them, but it also represented my heart on a deeper level of connection to their change.
Right turns can bring God into the rough times.
When you become a parent, nothing can quite prepare you for the great shift in priorities that such a little person makes. Coping with a loss or huge change is similar to early moments of parenting, because time slows down as you address their immediate needs. The laundry can pile, the bills might stack up, but seeing to their needs is most important for a season of life. This constant demand can be very exhausting and draining.
When my youngest son had three years of chronic ear infections, causing him much pain and costing us a lot of sleep, I learned to be much more flexible with the daily schedule. If I’d been up all night, other things had to slip so we could cope. This was happening as we moved repetitively after the fires into rental homes, six times in two-and-a-half years, due to a string of bad luck with people from whom we rented going belly-up financially. I think the Lord wanted us to learn the importance of solvency before we replaced our own belongings. I also know those four years of difficulty brought us so close as a family.
|Moving six times in two years? I wouldn’t recommend it! |
But the challenges brought us closer.
What could have divided us, instead made us stronger and brought God’s word out of the Bible and into our everyday lives with our deepened dependence on Jesus. Like taking someone’s pulse, I learned to listen more intently to the subtle heart-whispers of the Lord and react in the moment. Whether it was addressing medical needs, or adapting to change, I strove to find a point of joy in the day when things were bleak. When joy was elusive, we piled in the car, prayed, and picked a direction for an outing. We were not evading the problem, but once addressed, we did not let the problem invade our sense of self or family.
Some of our favorite right turns:
|Soon after the fires we found this great Star Trek exhibit at a museum.|
|We love to visit the butterflies each spring. It brings simple joy and wonder.|
|Years have passed, kids have grown, but we still love a right turn.|
This Christmas we surprised our kids with a trip to Hawaii.
What are some ways you handle difficult times? What have been some of your favorite right turns? How do you find encouragement to press on when life throws you a curve ball? I’d love to hear from you.
Elizabeth Van Tassel has faced life’s challenges with humor and grace while maintaining her faith. Having lost her family’s home to a wildfire, as well as experiencing a myriad of health and other life-altering trials, she teaches real-life lessons and helps tweens, teens, and their parents build a treasure box of tools to face the hardest trials of life. Her background with gems and love for history brings a special flair to her speaking, classes, coaching, and fiction and nonfiction writing. You can find her at www.elizabethvantassel.com where she blogs about leading a resilient life and her upcoming tween fantasy work. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or by signing up for her updates here.
Today I am offering a special giveaway to three commenters. I’m giving away two 20-minute coaching sessions for two people who need ideas for being more resilient with outlook or priorities (per my website). You can use it for yourself, or perhaps gift it to a friend. You can also use the time for me to research ideas for right turns in your area.
I’m also offering a $25 gift certificate for some pampering at Bath and Bodyworks, so you can take a break when you need it most! Please indicate which items you’d like to be entered for and the winners will be announced in the Weekend Edition.
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