I just completed an involuntary stint in life rehab. The recent hurricane in Florida (dang Irma) pushed my husband and I out of our home into the welcoming arms of our dear friends, Clay + Natalie. Our house lost power during the storm, but Clatalie (their couple name) invited us to stay at their home until our power came on. What we thought would be a day or two ended up being 7 days, and they graciously hosted us. Luckily, the four of us had plenty of time to spend together and learn from each other.
I wish I could tell you that God sent me to them to teach them some things, but it was quite the opposite. I quickly realized that this was God's way of setting up Russell + I for a life reset, or as I termed the week:
LIFE REHAB WITH DR. AND MRS. NYLUND
(Many nicknames, all the same people: Clay + Natalie = Clatalie = Dr. and Mrs. Nylund. Capisce?)
Staying with these two amazing friends provided a glimpse into what it looks like to be living your best life, regardless of the circumstances.
It all started a week before the storm. As everyone in Florida watched the news of the hurricane that would wipe out everyone and everything in our state, we all went into utter panic trying to come up with a game plan for how best to survive. Half the people I knew were hunkering down for the worst of it, and the other half were headed out-of-state.
The grocery stores were out of non-perishable food and bottled water a full week before the storm hit. Millions of people drove the to Atlanta and beyond. So many people, in fact, that what should have been a 7-hour drive became a 20-hour drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Here in St. Petersburg, gas stations ran out of gas 5-7 days before the storm hit. Everyone was in a panic. I remember seeing the person at the gas tank in front of me open up the back of her truck to fill up 3 gas cans, while filling up her truck, and having 2 propane tanks in the back. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "Thanks for becoming a bomb on wheels" -_-
But as we worked together to prepare homes and pray God's mercy over our lives and property, it became very apparent who had their wits about them. I saw that people who were spiritually healthy reacted to the storm much differently than those who were spiritually malnourished. Spiritually healthy people were able to maintain mental balance better and longer than those who were spiritually starving.
Ugh...I wish I could claim to be in the "healthy" group, but lo and behold, there I was a full week before the storm, waiting 20 minutes at the gas pump and paying twice as much for it. The reason I know that grocery stores were out of canned goods and water is because I was there...at 4 different stores, panicking over whether we would starve to death.
That's illogical, but that's where my state of mind was.
The storm passed, and by the time it hit, it changed its route entirely. My panic was all for nothing. My stress at the gas pump and rudeness at the grocery store were all for nothing.
I can justify my reaction by saying that everyone was acting like that, but I don't want to behave like everyone. I want to be like Jesus. When I look at how Jesus acted during a storm in His life, this is what I see:
"The disciples' boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the night Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the sea... Jesus said, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.'"Matthew 14 (paraphrased)
Where was Jesus during the storm? Going out to rescue the ones He loved, encouraging them out of fear and into faith.
Clay and Natalie's attitude during the pre-Irma panic and post-Irma disarray was unwavering. Have you ever had friends like that? Not much phases them. Their emotions aren't on high alert, like mine tend to be. (Writers are emotional, okay?!) Clay + Natalie's peacefulness is so evident it's practically palpable.
Would their attitudes have been different if the storm had knocked out their power? Consider this: During the storm, Natalie's grandmother in Puerto Rico passed away. While there were tears - strong tears - their peacefulness didn't change. Yes, there were emotions. No, their emotions didn't control their attitudes. I certainly don't mean to paint them as robots, cold and heartless to the troubles around them. It wasn't that.
Their peacefulness comes from a deep, abiding faith that God is loving and in control. Regardless of what happens, He will redeem every pain and heal every wound. Their peacefulness was a shining beacon amidst the storm.
It was during this week that I realized the truth of the phrase
I'm living my best life
It might be my favorite phrase of the moment, said in a cheeky way of course. But despite the storm and the unexpected guests for a week (Russell + me), they were so calm.
This peacefulness is the best way to live life, and I was eager to learn how they could be so peaceful.
LESSONS LEARNED DURING LIFE REHAB
Harbor Peace During the storm, peace was scarce in St. Pete, in Florida, and really in all of southeastern America. We just witnessed Hurricane Harvey devastate several Caribbean islands and Houston, and we panicked. I was glued to the TV, and you can imagine how unnerving that was. At one point I just had to turn off the TV and be uninformed to keep myself from a panic attack. Nobody can blame that reaction. But the panic was unhelpful to preventing a similar situation here. Clatalie acted differently. They were peaceful, despite the circumstances. Over a week's worth of discussion and observation, I found out that Clay + Natalie focus on harboring peace. Like a ship in a bay harbored from the tumultuous waves of the sea, they guard and protect peacefulness. Peace ultimately comes from God, but you can either harbor it or disregard it. Peace has to be harbored for it to remain. Anytime something is preserved, it comes at a cost. To hold onto anything, you have to purposely let go of some things. What I learned from Natalie is that they purposely let go of relationships that harbor discord in order to harbor peace in their lives. I wish I could say I'm right there with them, but I'm not there yet. I tend to hold on to relationships, even the unhealthy ones. But as I've seen what a difference it has made in Clatalie's life when healthy relationships are nurtured and unhealthy relationships are starved, I'm working on letting go of negative relationships. I will be someone who harbors peace, and each day more so.
Steward Stuff In the kitchen, I noticed Natalie using a mixing bowl for storage. I asked, "Why don't you buy a storage bowl?" She replied, "We don't need it. Besides, we don't want extra things lying around." And while she cooked, I noticed more multi-purpose items. This astounded me. If you know anything about me, you know I LOVE EXCESS - I need two of everything: one for practical purposes, one for decorative. Storage bowls? One practical, one decorative. Natalie's response was like running into a glass screen door - SMACK! It took God a lot of work on me to help me see that sometimes less is more. Part of that peacefulness that Clatalie has is from not being distracted by stuff. I wanted that peace and the ability to focus without the incessant distractions of new and shiny errthang. So over the next couple of weeks, I got rid of excess. Our guest bedroom was previously a storage room. I got donated a couple of carloads of stuff we never use anyway, and as a result, we are now able to host out-of-town friends in a proper bedroom. And who knows, maybe next hurricane we'll be able to provide refuge to someone else without power.The other implication of stewarding stuff is something that I don't think about enough: Stewarding the earth. Here's what I noticed as Clatalie's: They bring their own water bottles everywhere so as not to use plastic bottles, creating unnecessary trash. They keep their paper towels in a drawer and linen towels on the counter, so if they instinctively reach for a towel, it's a reusable one. And they carry reusable bags to the grocery store. Since then, I've implemented these practical tips with the intention of honoring this beautiful planet that God has given us to steward.
Cherish Each Other
There are two groups I'm talking about cherishing here, and I'll speak to the more important of the two first.
The most important group is our spouses. You might laugh, but the most important lesson I learned in life rehab was to:
Be kind to my husband.
I so easily forgot this principle. In just under a year of marriage, I forgot that kindness matters in marriage. The problem is that we get so comfortable. Russell is the person who has seen me with no makeup, morning breath (not that I have it, but theoretically sometimes people do...), and hair all a mess. He's the one who has done those goofy charcoal face masks with me. He's the one who I spend every evening, night and weekend with. It's sooooo easy to get so comfortable with a lack of kindness when it's someone you're around all the time! You lose politeness about the same time you discover that the other person isn't at all charming in the mornings.
But the storm caused me to re-evaluate where I put my time and energy. Kindness costs both time and energy. When I text a question to Russell, and he answers, it's an extra step for me to say "Thank you". But isn't that mere courtesy? Saying please and thank you and I'm praying for you and I love you. It may be implied from my point of view, but it isn't understood from his point of view. See, it's easy to forget that your spouse -- whom you spend the majority of your time with -- who promised to love you regardless -- is another human being just like you. Someone who wants to feel loved, appreciated, and respected. Kindness does that. It shows that you're putting forth the extra effort to be respectful of their feelings. And BONUS, by showing kindness in everyday interactions, I've become more human and less of an emotionless robot.
If you've been married for years and years and you've lost kindness in your marriage, learn to be kind again. If you're single, learn to be kind to your parents and best friends. It will go a long way in your marriage if kindness is already a habit you've cultivated. I'm sure you're all tired of me saying this **ugh eyeroll fine** but the habits you develop in your single days will be the habits you carry into your marriage. If you want to be a kind spouse, learn to be kind and courteous to the people closest to you.
Secondly, I saw how people cherish other people after a scare.
Perspective truly is everything. People with or without power, with or without kids to care for, way out of their routines reacted one of two ways: 1. Curse this time. 2. Deep gratitude for life, their loved ones and the extra time to spend with them.
I know that's easy for me to say since I was well taken care of during the storm, but from the conversations I had with hundreds of people after the storm, I realized that some people's panicked perspective before the storm became their attitude after the storm. And yet others recognized and cherished the gift of each day. We were no longer preoccupied with watching the football game on Sunday or some meeting on Monday or what to wear on Friday. We were thrilled to have our families and friends to embrace. And that's all that mattered...for a few days.
I wonder if that fresh perspective of cherishing each other has slowly withered away. Are we back to prioritizing our careers over our families, too distracted by our phones to listen to our spouses? Are we back to buying everything at the mall that we miss how blessed we are to live in America and afford the conveniences we do? Are we back to coveting the lives of the #instafamous workout buffs, fashion bloggers and celebs that we forget to be grateful? I hope not.
We are so blessed!!! So blessed that we miss often miss how blessed we truly are. But it doesn't have to be that way. Do you remember the storm - either Irma or whatever storm you've had that caused you to evaluate your life's priorities? It's like life rehab when you realign your priorities and begin to prioritize your marriage, family and friends again. But it's how you can live your best life.
Here's a challenge for you:
Sometime this week, put down your phone. Turn it off for a few hours. Ask your family to do the same. Look at each other and express what you mean to each other. Speak as if tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Tell your husband or wife how much you love him/her. Tell your kids that they are more important than your job, income, title, and community reputation. Tell your family that you cherish quality time with them. Then... start living that way.
Konga living her best life