I never played competitive sports, but I know a thing or two about curveballs.
One Saturday morning, I celebrated my 12th birthday with my best friends at the coolest party ever. The next day, my father passed away from a fatal heart attack.
I spent my high school years working hard in honors classes, dreaming of college admission, only to be forced into full-time employment immediately after graduation.
I worked for 6 years on church staff full-time, and finally found my “true calling” in Children’s Ministry, when our plans suddenly changed, sending my husband and I to another city as he completed his schooling.
Two years later, after being blessed with even greater opportunities and responsibility in Children’s Ministry at another church, I left it all behind to embark on an even greater adventure with my husband, a job in (exciting!) England.
Nope. Wait. Curveball. The location of the job changed to central Illinois.
We always planned on moving closer to Southern California after 3-5 years in Illinois. After 21 months of wonderful Midwest living, just 5 weeks after the birth of our son, we decided, out of the blue, to look for another job back home. In one week, my husband applied, interviewed and accepted a position, and just 3 weeks later, we were moving across the country. Talk about whiplash!
The most recent change of plans? On April 30, I went to a doctor’s appointment thinking I was 12 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child. Surprise! I was actually pregnant with baby #2 AND baby #3. Twins. That’s quite a curveball.
I know I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who’s experienced some unexpected switch-backs in life. After 33 years of these crazy adventures, I think God might be teaching me a “Curveball Survival Strategy” to get me through it all, and continue to fuel me for the windy road ahead.
It’s the example He shared with us in Joseph. Talk about curveballs! This kid, with dreams of grandeur, has it made as the favorite son of a wealthy man, when suddenly he’s sold into slavery. He becomes the most trusted slave in his master’s house, and then suddenly he’s falsely accused and sent to jail! He serves his time in jail well, serving others, interpreting their dreams, only to be forgotten and left behind. For years!
No matter the curveball that was thrown at him, Joseph not only survived but thrived. He made the best of his new situation. He went beyond putting up with whatever came his way. He blessed others, even in the direst of circumstances.
A few years ago, my husband called to inform me of our latest curveball, another opportunity that required another move. In that conversation we decided on two options: 1) don’t accept the opportunity, don’t move, stay where we are and remain happy, or 2) make the move, take the risk, and still remain happy. There was no third option where we move and are miserable. Angry, bitter, miserable was just not an option.
Just like Joseph.
He didn’t waste time being bitter. He didn’t replay over and over in his mind all his brothers did to him, how he didn’t deserve any of this. He committed to living well in his new life. He never allowed bitterness or despair to overtake him. Wallowing was simply not permitted. Thriving was the only avenue he allowed himself to take.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Whether the curveballs seem terrific, terrible or terrifying, controlling my actions despite my emotions is a constant struggle. But the “overcoming adversity” muscles get stronger with every curveball conquered. Every expectation unmet is another opportunity to strengthen my resolve, to allow God to build a more Christ-like character in me.
Every time I refused bitterness and resolved to find joy, it gets a little easier. But even more than that, it becomes part of who I am, to make the best of things, to find joy in unexpected places, in every place.
I now have a checklist for maintaining joy despite my circumstances.
1) I start with God. Finding time for Him. Praying about the change. Asking for prayer from others. During my particularly painful trials, He has listened to my deep sadness and comforted me in my hurt. But I had to make Him a priority, not just privately, but in the church community. If the curveball required a move, I would dive into research to find a new church home.
2) Next, I focus on relationships. Building friends around me, strengthening my support. I ask for emotional, spiritual, and physical help from others, especially during my greatest losses. Their service in my life strengthens me and brings me joy. For every move, I made it a top priority to build friendships as quickly as possible. Finding a bible study or mom’s group where I could get connected was my lifeline to joy rather than bitterness.
3) Brighten the physical surroundings. Rearranging the furniture, letting in more light, buying flowers, or just cleaning and organizing a bit. Sprucing up my home, even in small ways makes a huge difference. Dress in cute clothes, go get some exercise. Taking extra special care of myself has always brightened my outlook on life.
4) Tackle the adventure, don’t mourn the change. With every move or dramatic event, I look at it from the stand point of a “travel writer” of sorts. What attractions, events, or experiences are present in this circumstance? When we moved to Illinois, instead of weeping over the loss of the culinary and cultural experiences we had in Los Angeles, I sought out the delights of the Midwest. I researched my new home and found out the fun places to eat, festivals to frequent, local sites and attractions. We had all sorts of marvelous Midwest adventures that were nothing like our SoCal sojourns, but enriched our lives all the more for those differences. I’ve approached other changes in much the same way. (What unique experiences/adventures might I have as a mother of twins?)
5) Serve others, even in the midst of your sadness and struggle. I’ve found my greatest joy in each curveball, finding those who needed me, instead of focusing on my own loss. When I’m feeling alone after another move to another city, I find joy in helping others make friends. Did it mean I didn’t miss my old friends? No! But serving in the midst of my struggle made me even more effective, more empathetic and understanding of their plight, and more helpful in the resolution.
It’s a long and winding road we live, on our way to eternity. Rather than wincing at every curve and switch-back, I’d rather smile and enjoy the ride. Wouldn’t you?
Hi there! I'm Marie Osborne, a blogger, wife, & stay-at-home mom who loves Jesus & laughs often (rather loudly, usually at myself). But more importantly, I'm here in the trenches right beside you, candidly sharing my sinner's journey, running after Jesus, stubbornly committed to my marriage, battling my sin nature as I strive for grace-filled motherhood, and daily wrapping myself in His mercy, comfort and love. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to be encouraged, challenged, and laugh together. Visit my website to read more!