The current, frantic pace of my family’s life leaves precious little time to consider, let alone plan for the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions will happen , and of course with fixed dates on the calendar it’s not like we are skipping anything this year.
Yet it almost seems like we should.
This week was an extreme example of what our lives have been like for about the last 400 or so days.
On Monday at school, Emily found herself chasing down a wayward ball during P.E. She turned awkwardly and then twisted her ankle. It hurt, but not enough to stop her from playing, but when the same action repeated itself moments later, there she was, down on the ground and in pain. A lengthy trip to urgent care for x-rays and examination later, there she was with a soft splint and crutches and a stupefying diagnosis of a broken ankle.
We made the most of it, as we spent Monday evening watching videos of people climbing and descending stairs on crutches to make sure that Emily knew how to handle herself.
On Wednesday, Trevor accepted the dare of some little classmates to run as fast as he could – with his eyes shut. Undaunted, and being the Fulton that he is, Trevor accepted, and running as fast as he could into the darkness, he slammed face-first into a pole and went down like a sack of potatoes with a cartoonish bump on his forehead quickly making an appearance. Back to urgent care went Samantha for the second time in 48 hours. This time I was able to join them, and wouldn’t you know it that the very same doctor who treated Emily on Monday – and the same doctor who treated me for a spider bite a year ago – was the guy who examined Trevor. “You guys are having a heckuva week,” he said. Truer words have never been spoken. Thankfully there was no permanent damage to our daredevil son, but we were on head-jury-protocol for the evening, waking him up every few hours to make sure things were (mostly) normal.
Thursday was a return trip to the land of medicine, as Emily was to see the orthopedic surgeon to determine the extent of her injury and to make sure that there was no risk to the growth plate in her leg. Thankfully everything looked good, although the fracture was still evident, but there was no harm to the growth plate and we got to say goodbye to the crutches and splint and hello to the Velcro-ladened walking boot for a few weeks. Happy as a clam, Emily headed off to school and immediately back to watch her classmates at P.E., where she innocently stuck her hand out to stop a bounding ball and of course promptly sprained the ring finger of her left hand.
Super heavy sigh.
Two trips to urgent care during the week for Samantha ultimately took its toll on her by Friday night, as a nasty cold, complete with chills and an achy back slammed her just in time for the weekend.
You just have to laugh at all of this happening in a single week, and I’m not playing the victim card here, but this is kind of how our “new lives” have been for a while. Our new lives essentially commencing with my leaving a job I’d held for 17 years in search of a new one, while Sam was busy tackling the role of working mom, diving head-first into the Admissions and Marketing Director position at the kids’ school.
Life is certainly dramatically different today than it was two years ago. We’ve made some bad decisions along with some really good choices along the way, and when I look back on it all I’m really quite stunned at how much has changed.
I stood in the shower this morning thinking it over. I had been presented with choices to make that would impact our financial future, not to mention the niceties that come with 17 years at a job, but I had been praying for a way out for so long that it hardly made sense to stay. Yet as the warm water washed over me this morning I shook a bit at the fact that I took a $50,000 a year pay cut and forfeited many perks and two weeks of vacation. That hurts a bit.
Nah. It hurts a lot.
But again, money and perks can only mask misery for so long, and I had been miserable at the big toy company for much of my final five years there. As I concluded my shower and toweled-off, I felt a little ashamed of myself for even experiencing a sliver of regret. And moments later when I emerged dressed and refreshed, I heard Samantha sneeze, saw Emily stagger by with the walking boot and snuck a peek at Trevor’s forehead bruise and could only smile and be overwhelmed by the feeling that any man in my position could feel in that moment.
Sure, we are still learning to adjust to a life where we make significantly less money and vacations are out of the question for a while, but being a family means more than my former fat paycheck and extravagant benefits. I’m now blessed with mornings with my family to go along with evenings of togetherness like never before. Samantha has a dream job that not only suits her desire to work in ministry, but she also gets to do marketing and promotions, all the while sitting in an office that is literally 25 yards from the kids’ classrooms. And because misery on the job is a thing of the past, I’m actually walking through the door each night giving my family the best of me rather than the hollow shell of a man that was driving home from the toy company every night.
So you know what? I’ll take less money and vacation time, and I’ll take the broken ankle and the super-nasty head cold every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Heck, I’ll close my eyes and run headlong into a pole if it means that I get to spend more quality time with my family. Because through the trials and tribulations of this year and last, and even the final five trying years at the big toy company, I learned something.
I learned to be content.
Like Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
There is no willpower. There is no inner strength. There is no self-reliance. No, my source of strength and contentment comes from above. God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It takes time to stumble upon this reality as a believer, even when the words have been there for me to read for a good long time. For the longest time they were just words, but very recently, as prayers have been answered after our struggles culminated in cries of anguish to the Lord, the words became reality. And with reality came reflection instead of regret, and when regret crept in I was reminded that God loves me and has a plan for my life that continues to unfold on a daily basis. And with that love comes blessing and contentment, and I realize that makes no sense to the world when you consider $50,000, broken ankles, busted heads and sickness.
But that’s okay.
I stand before you now proclaiming that God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good!
I hope that you are blessed by reading this and that if you are a professing Christian that may feel stalled or in the midst of personal crisis you find hope and a reminder to cling to the one true God. And if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at this moment but know me personally, and you know of my past, my failures and struggles, then you will be encouraged by the transformation and you will start investigating who God is and what He has planned for your life. Trust me, it’s worth investigating.
Thank you for your readership.