From Accepting to Embracing the Unexpected Journey

In the last couple days, my husband and I have been going back and forth trying to figure out where we want to go for a summer weekend “getaway” without the kids. Now that we live over 1000 miles away from grandparents, any vacation we decide to take without the kids takes a significant amount of planning in advance, mostly because we have to make sure that our most important responsibility, the care of our children, is taken care before we get too deep into our plans.

But as we discuss where we really want to go and how much we really want to spend, I know that the rest of our summer plans need to be nailed down first. Right now the summer is still open, except for the one weekend in July that I will at yearbook camp with my high school staffers, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t already gradually filling the calendar with little things that we want to do all summer long.

So last night I sat down to map out my dream vacation for this coming summer. To be fair, I have a lot of dream vacations. I really do want to go everywhere and see everything and I have a hard time scaling back those desires. My initial plans for the summer included a trip all the way from Houston to New Mexico to Utah and working our way as far north as Denver before heading home. Provided the shutdown is finally over by then, I wanted to make sure that we hit every National Park and National Monument along the way. And in order to preserve as much of my husband’s vacation as possible, I needed to do it all in two weeks.

Y’all, New Mexico is big, way bigger than I realized the first time I mapped out the trip. I knew that getting from east to west Texas and then north was going to be quite the journey, but I never considered just how long it would take us to travel all the way through New Mexico to Colorado and then Utah with the camper behind us.

I had high expectations. I expected that we would be able to do all of the things. Instead, I had to be honest with myself, cut out a couple of the parks that I thought would be fun but that were not dream parks, and managed to map out two weeks with plenty of stops and sightseeing and adventuring to qualify as both quality and quantity family time. And after the initial disappointment of our Christmas break plans not quite working out the way I originally intended, I had to remind myself that even with the things we weren’t able to do, that vacation had still been better than I could have ever imagined. Instead of just accepting that we can’t do all of the things, I’m trying to embrace what we will be able to do. I don’t just want to make the best of an initial disappointment. I want to embrace it as an opportunity to really explore and experience the places that we will be able to visit as a family.

I really want to learn how to not just accept the unexpected. I want to learn how to embrace the unexpected.

And this is not easy for me. I’m a hopeless idealist who far too often falls into the trap of perfectionism. I don’t like it when things don’t go my way or when they go differently than I had hoped. It’s the reason why I initially titled this blog “Learning to Accept the Unexpected Journey.” I’ve spent nearly 40 years learning how to cope with those things that are out of my control. But as my 40th birthday approaches, I want to work on entering the next decade of my life embracing a life that I can’t control. I want to be better at trusting God during both the good times and the bad. I want to look back at the hills and valleys and minefields that He has guided me through and believe that there is a light, however faint, at the end of each and every tunnel.

This is difficult when I often find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, struggling to enjoy the relative calm we are currently living in, fearful that there is a storm around the next corner. But the last couple years have been good to us. After years of owning a second house in Indianapolis, last year we finally sold it to our renter, ending eight years of dual home ownership and the anxiety that surfaced every time we got a phone call or email from our realtor, fearful that meant another expensive repair that the rent payment wouldn’t cover. I’m not proud of the fact that during our worst moment of dual home ownership, when we finally gave up trying to sell the house and we were settling on finding a renter, we intentionally missed a payment, choosing the house we were living in over the empty house we had left behind and praying that money would come in before the next payment was due. The last time I checked our credit report, it was finally clear of that missed payment, a sight that thrilled me more than it should have. We just got our title to our truck, having paid it off way sooner than expected (thanks to the sale of our Indianapolis house), which allowed us to upgrade our camper trailer to the camper that we plan to take on our summer trip out west. While my contract has ended, my two years writing for THRED allowed me to be a part of a new ministry while also honing my own writing craft, convincing me that maybe, just maybe, I could start working on that book that was sitting in the deep recesses of my brain. We experienced our first hurricane and instead of watching our city fall apart, we watched it show the world what it meant to come together, thankful that our house was not one of the many left under water. Years after telling my high school biology teacher there was no way I would ever be a distance runner, I now run nearly 10 miles a week. Certain that our son and daughter would always be two years apart in school, we made the difficult decision to red-shirt him for one year. Now he is thriving and at the top of his first grade class, loving school and learning and life.

Sometimes the unexpected really sucks and it’s hard to believe that we will see the other side. It’s also disingenuous to say to those suffering, “everything will work out for the best,” because sometimes it doesn’t, and even if it does eventually work out, it may take much longer than we are prepared to suffer. While things are good at this very moment, I pray that I will continue to mature to the point that when difficulty comes our way again I can truly believe what I wrote in a THRED piece when I discussed my history of plans blowing up in my face: “Sometimes that something different will be something better than we ever imagined.”

For now, I am thankful for the life that we have. I am thankful for a loving and supportive husband (even if I’m hiding from him for a couple minutes so I can finish a blog post that I started at the pediatric dentist). I am thankful for two happy, healthy, creative, loving children who keep us on our toes. I’m thankful for a job that I love and students who challenge me (usually in good ways). I’m thankful for friends all over the country who lend a listening ear. And I am thankful for all of the support systems that will challenge me to embrace the unexpected when the time comes, as it always does.

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