About 3 weeks after my leg break, Jay and I returned back home to LA. Over the past few years, near the beginning of August, my family has gathered in California for our annual summer vacation. They were all very concerned for me and nearly cancelled the trip, but I figured I could either be recuperating at home or at the beach with my family; naturally, I chose the latter.
We arrived at the beautiful spot, only about an hour away, though it felt light years from what had been my most recent circumstances in the leg break. Moving forward in life after a big change is always clunky, even painful but so necessary. Breathing in that crisp ocean air was well worth the extra throbbing in my leg from the cramped car trip.
I had helped book the spot for my Dad months earlier, getting him a fabulous deal, of course, and though the property owner mentioned there were a few stairs leading up to the door, I had not connected that a few stairs to some people may seem like infinitely more if you can't physically walk up stairs. The full flight that I would have to traverse every time I came and went from our room was momentarily discouraging, particularly since I knew I would be totally dependent on my Dad and Jay to get me up and down. (They would end up trying probably 5 different hand-holds/carrying methods before the trip was over. FYI, my arms over each of their necks as they "effortlessly" floated me up the stairs worked best).
I have always been wired as an eternal optimist, though the hardship of my stroke has given that aspect of my personality a run for its money (don't worry, the optimism won out!) To have finally made it to this place of relaxation, rest, and family fellowship, only for there to be such a prominent physical obstacle presented me with an opportunity to be frustrated or grateful. After we had all been through so much, it seemed only fair that we should get have this respite and have the perfect version of it. As we all know, that's just not how things tend to work out--can I get an "Amen"?!
Over that long weekend we spent together, there were more opportunities to be annoyed or just go with the flow--the heat, the crowds, the awkward interaction with a fellow guest over a pool chair, etc. Certainly none of us can control much, but we can control our response in life. And yet, each unexpected moment presents us with that choice to choose to focus on the bitterness or the blessing.
After spending time in Africa in 2006 and neuro-rehab in 2009, we are hesitant to be distraught by life's little inconveniences. Living in LA, we tend to hear so much strife over the traffic, the lack of seasons, the cost of gas, Trader Joe's no longer carrying someone's particularly favorite type of chocolate bar...to which our wise friend Bethany always counters, "that's a luxury problem". Don't you love that? Please don't mishear me, I deeply feel that pain is relative, and similar to how the Lord cares about the little issues in our lives, we should care about things that cause each other pain. We are called to bear the burdens of those with whom we "do life together". Nonetheless, perspective is everything in life. Can we in good conscience call these day-to-day obstacles real problems, particularly when there is significant suffering and pain running rampant? The vast majority of the world doesn't have the luxury to fret over the things many of us call problems.
Naturally, a devotional that fit just right came to me during this weekend. From "Dear Jesus", it says, "The bottom line is whether you trust Me to use the difficulty for good in your life. Beware of feeling entitled to an easy life. I actually promised the opposite when I said, 'In this world you will have trouble.' If you want to learn all that I have prepared for you, you must accept My teaching methods. Remember that I am the Potter, and you are the clay. You need to be flexible--malleable in My skillful hands."
Lord, help us to live lives of gratitude for all You so graciously give us, the good, the bad, and the ugly...the luxury and the problems.