A few years ago, after a particularly grueling season of family life followed by a respite, followed by the onset of another stressful season, a dear friend listened to me talk about what was happening and said five words I have never forgotten.
Flexible. Now that’s a word I never would have used to describe myself even a few years earlier.
As I’ve written here on more than one occasion, I’m not fond of change. I tend to like things how they are, and it takes me awhile to adjust to different, even if I’m the one who initiated it.
My life hasn’t exactly cooperated with my preferences these last several years, however. Here’s a brief recap:
In early 2006, after 12 years in Arkansas, we moved to my home state of Kansas where Randy had accepted a new job. That job didn’t work out how he thought it would, so in the fall of 2008, he accepted a position with a different company. Soon thereafter, the stock market crashed and the construction industry in our area tanked.
Three months later, he was laid off.
After a 12-week search, Randy found a position with an out-of-state masonry contractor. Eighteen months later, the firm closed its Kansas City office and Randy was out of work again. He landed a new job more quickly this time, but was soon assigned a project 2 ½ hours from home that required him to be gone throughout the week.
During the 10 months he worked out of town, we got our house ready to sell, put it up for sale, sold it, and moved into the basement of a foreclosed fixer-upper that needed several weeks of work before we could really even live in it.
Lilly and Molly started fourth and first grade at a new school while their dad was out of town. In addition, my 40-year-old body was slowly grinding to the end of its so-called childbearing years (so-called because for me, there was no child-bearing, mostly just pain, associated with my reproductive system), which made all this transition even more memorable for me.
That fall, Randy came home for good. We adjusted to living full-time with husband and dad again (if you’ve ever done that, perhaps you can relate) and continued remodeling the house (hoping that some day, the downsizing would start to pay off). When his company decided to send him out of town again the next year, he (thankfully) started looking for another job closer to home.
Yeah, I know. That’s a lot.
When I think about it now, I wonder how we did it.
It was right around this time that my friend made her observation about flexibility. She had known me before all this happened, and apparently, she saw a difference.
I’m not an athlete or a personal trainer, but I do know that stretching is the best—maybe the only—way to increase flexibility. Physically, we can stretch a little more each day until we reach places we’ve never touched before.
I’ve watched this happen with my ballerina daughter. The things she can do with her limbs—movements she was unable to perform a few years ago—astound me.
And it’s all due to the stretching.
I wish there was some fail-proof exercise regimen that could accomplish the same thing in real life, but of course, there’s not. It’s the circumstances of life that stretch us—some in very awkward ways, some in ways that we feel surely will break us in half.
We don’t often get a choice about these uncomfortable chapters that are divinely written into our life stories. We can, however, draw comfort in knowing that the Author and Finisher of our faith knows the end from the beginning, and has a clear purpose for each stretching season.
The missions pastor at our church in Arkansas used to say, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will bend and not break.”
All these years later, I think I’m finally learning what he meant by that.