July 2016

headshotBy Ricki Allen

Back in the year 2000, a movie came out staring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg called The Perfect Storm. It was an adaptation of a book written in the late 90’s, about a crew of fishermen who went from not catching any fish, to catching way more than they bargained for. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well for the captain and his crew. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew… Hang on, different story entirely – but did you sing that last bit? You’re welcome. The theme song from Gilligan’s Island will likely be stuck on mental repeat for the rest of the day. As soon as you think it’s gone, I’m betting you’ll start wondering how it was that Ginger always remained so well put together. I mean really, her make-up was flawless and her hair was seemingly immune to humidity. When I think back to how I looked on the last camping trip with my husband, I gotta tell you, there’s a reason this girl’s no movie star. Let’s get back on point: fisherman, boat, hurricane…the perfect storm.

While I’m not an avid fisherwoman, lately my life has mirrored that movie a bit more than I would like. As 2015 came to a close, my husband got promoted at work and I took a new job which promised to be great. While in the midst of us both learning our new roles professionally, we rang in the new year. Yippee. Cue the streamers. Shortly after tossing out the old calendar and finally remembering to type 2016, I got a call from my husband that he and my 16-year-old son had been in a car accident. Arriving at the scene and seeing all the emergency lights flashing was surreal and more than a little scary. Thankfully they were okay, but our car was totaled. But the hits just kept coming – like they literally kept coming – as in a total of four car accidents in a three-month period. How is that even possible? I have no idea. A better question might be: how are we still insured?

What a tremendously inconvenient and crazy stretch! After the second accident, I found myself thinking, “Wow. Surely this is the end of it.” After the next one, a friend reminded me that bad things come in three’s, so our luck should be turning. Yeah…I’m here to tell you that as well-meaning as she may have been, the old wife that told that tale wasn’t being entirely honest. After the fourth accident, my husband and I just looked at each other speechless. Ever a fan of silver linings, I had definitely been on the lookout for something shiny that wasn’t car parts and broken glass strewn across the street. Sure enough, there was a bright side to be found! Along with my new job came a pay increase. Boom – silver lining. We had a little more income to help offset the expenses and the addition of a car payment…not to mention our new and improved insurance premium. Sigh of relief: the storm was finally calming.

If you are an avid reader like me, or you enjoy watching movies, you will likely agree that any good story has its fair share of twists and turns. Let’s be honest, in real life things would be a bit boring if entirely predictable. However, there can come a point where one waves the white flag of surrender. That moment came for me when I received word that my company lost a big account and that I was being laid off. You know when it’s really hot out and you can see what looks like a shimmering stream of water running across the road ahead? Yeah, it was like that: my silver lining turned out to be a mirage.

Are you beginning to wonder if I was clear about how things normally go, in that guest bloggers are generally expected to write something encouraging? Believe me, I am on the same page. In the midst of a world turned upside down, I debated bowing out and waiting for a time when life was moving more smoothly, making it easier to write something lighthearted and fun. But you know what? Sometimes life isn’t fun. The truth is that life is often messy and at times can be downright frustrating! So why is it that I felt I had to put off writing for another day? Probably for the same reason so many of us feel like we have to smile and give the standard, “I’m great!” during times when our insides are in knots, our hearts are broken, and the smile on our faces is painfully forced.

There’s a line in a song that says, “Everybody hurts sometimes.” I find that simple, yet profound and oh, so very true! In the Christian world, I think many of us feel that we are not allowed to have a bad day. In the midst of that rough day (or week) that something is horribly wrong if we find ourselves feeling like we can’t take one more thing; if the storm appears to be getting the better of us. If it’s true that we all hurt, as R.E.M. so eloquently proposed, then why are so many of us under the impression that we must keep our masks firmly in place? Psalm 103:14 assures us that the Lord knows our frame, that we are but dust. That tells me that while we may be able to fool our classmates or that gal at the office, the One who knows us best isn’t buying it. He knew that we were going to have struggles and that this life would bring troubled waters and during those times, His expectation isn’t for us to pretend all is well. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Furthermore, when we attempt to keep up that charade, I believe that we rob ourselves of something far greater. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we walk around dejected, bemoaning every challenge that comes our way, but rather that we reach out to others and lean on one another when we are overwhelmed.

The Bible is full of examples of how people deal with the storms that crash in on them. When Jonah disobeys, hops a boat to Tarshish and eventually winds up getting tossed overboard to calm the tempestuous sea, God saves him via the belly of the whale. When the disciples are caught in a storm with waves threatening to capsize their boat and they are overcome with fear, the Lord spoke and caused the winds to die down and the sea to calm. Jonah definitely got the messier deal there, but in both instances the Lord rescued his people when they called out to him. But what happens when we don’t get the miraculous solution to life’s dilemmas?

In Exodus, we watch Moses grow into a remarkable leader. I mean seriously, that guy did everything from receiving the ten commandments to dealing with a rather testy Pharaoh who was none too happy with what had become a substandard water supply, along with an infestation of unsightly critters, skin conditions…those plagues were no joke. Fast forward past manna from heaven and a rock springing forth with enough water to quench everyone’s thirst, and we find the people of Israel facing off against one of their greatest enemies, the Amalekites. Moses sends Joshua and his men off to battle while he stands on a hill holding the staff of God. When he held it high, the Israelites prevailed, but when he lowered his hands, the tables turned. Sheesh, no pressure there. If you’ve ever had to hold a position for any length of time, then you can imagine the feeling as the weariness set in. Did Moses pretend he was fine and just push through alone? Nope. A sage guy like Moses knew he needed to rely on the Lord and on others. Aaron and Hur got him a rock to sit on and they each took a side and held his arms up, sharing the burden until sunset.

It would be fantastic if as you read this today you find yourself perplexed, thinking: wow, I have no idea what she’s talking about – my life is an amazing anxiety-free utopia. However, in the event that you find yourself in the midst of a gale, I implore you to let your guard down and allow someone else to help shoulder the load. I’ll leave you with this: “Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up his companion: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has no one to help him up…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12