How do you respond to challenges?

“If you’re not being stretched, you’re not growing.”

This quote was coined by my wonderful husband who believes this to be true, 100%.  I, too, agree that growth, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, requires some form of stretching; whether it be learning abstract concepts in college to grow mentally, pushing yourself to run that tenth mile to stretch your physical limitations, or getting out of your comfort-zone to grow spiritually in faith all require extra effort and discipline.

All throughout our lives, we are presented with situations that challenge and stretch us – it’s life.  But it is up to us to decide how we will respond to those challenges.  It is our decision to view them as opportunities, and make the choice to let them help us grow.  We can choose whether they make us bitter or better.  Too often, we see a difficult obstacle in front of us and allow it to invoke fear and hopelessness in our hearts, when instead, we should take hold of the situation and respond like the powerful overcomers that we are.  As believers in Christ, we are not victims, but instead, victors.
I, myself, am still learning this lesson (Learning to have faith…part II).

For me, spontaneity is one thing I have never handled well.  And because of this, I have discovered that there are generally three types of people when it comes to circumstances of the unforeseen:  those who are intimidated by the unknown, those who thrive on the mystery, and those who linger somewhere in between – who are not generally bothered either way.  I easily fall into the first category about 98%-99%.  I am a planner.  My life operates according to lists and schedules – lists keep me focused, organized, and on-task; schedules keep me updated, prepared, and on-time.  I function like clock-work, everything is a routine.  Heck, since I work at home, I even have a daily list and routine for cleaning my house.  To some, this may bore them to tears but it is simply how I operate.  It helps me feel accomplished when things on my list are crossed off, and schedules make me feel relaxed, prepared, and in control.  Nothing throws me into a tail-spin faster than an unexpected event, no matter how small or unimportant.  If I was not prepared for it, then I’m immediately stressed out.

I was born into a family of planners.  Life was routine, simple, and completely predictable.  My parents moved into an old farmhouse three years before I was born and they are still happily living there.  We Mellotts scheduled events at least three to four weeks in advance, if not longer.  Vacations were always planned 4-5 months prior.  My dad worked a 6am-2pm job, so we could expect him home at 2:30 each day.  Everything was carefully thought out and organized.  Each event, meeting, and appointment was written on the calendar and everyone knew everyone else’s plans for the week.  And when my dad feels ambitious and goes shopping, he may come home with a surprise $14 ham roast.

Then I marry Brian and become part of his family.  The Helmuths fit into the second category as much as I do into the first.  100% polar opposites.  As Brian says, his family lives life flying by the seat of their pants.  Their lives are more busy, sporadic, and impulsive.  Brian grew up moving from state to state every few years.  Most of their vacations are not planned until a few weeks or mere days in advance.  They do not have predictable jobs since each job site varies every day as does their daily ETA home.  Their calendar is usually blank and often no one knows the others’ schedules.  And when Brian’s dad goes shopping, he may return with a horse.

There is nothing inherently wrong with either lifestyle.  They are just different.  There are pros and cons to both, I have learned.  Planners often become too obsessed with keeping schedules, and are not as willing to venture outside of their comfort zones, and “doers” are often too busy to take time to settle down and enjoy the precious little moments in life.

Who would agree that sometimes, physical things happen that throw us off and affect us spiritually?  How do we respond when something unforeseen happens?  Usually, we are given two choices: panic and worry as we try to adjust, or relax, pray, assess the situation logically, and take it a step at a time.

Life post-honeymoon has had its small challenges, but whose hasn’t, right?  Since our honeymoon, I get up with Brian each morning before 6am to make and pack his lunch before he leaves for work.  I am NOT a morning person, and resent getting up before 8am.  I am more than content with my college schedule:  staying up until 2am each day and sleeping in until 9am.  This change took some strong willpower to not only drag my pitiful rear out of bed while it is still dark and cold outside, but to go to bed early each night – also something I am not fond of in the least.  Knowing that these are simple little ways that I get to honor my husband makes this daily routine easier.  Also trying to plan my life according to his work schedule has been the biggest challenge for me yet.  I never know from day to day if he is coming home at 1pm or 9pm or any time in between.  Will we be able to meet our friends for the evening like we have been planning?  It depends on his job.  Should I have dinner ready by 4:30 or 8:30?  It depends on how far away the job site is.

This used to be a constant source of stress and irritation for me, but I have learned how to better accept it.  Not only have I gotten a work-from-home writing job which makes his long days less boring and lonely, but I am also learning to be more flexible.  The tiny things do not bother me as much anymore, and this is obvious to me now because on Friday, we planned a spontaneous two-week long trip from Ohio to California for Tuesday because his boss called and told us that he had no work for Brian for this next week or so.  Oddly, I am ok with a two-week-long road trip across the country with only 3-4 days’ notice.  In these two days, I am cooking, doing laundry, and packing, while entertaining my family who is visiting for the holidays.

Two months ago, I would be in a tail-spin about rushing this spontaneous trip, but somehow, it does not bother me.  I guess this means that I have fully adopted my Helmuth identity now.  He-he-he!  But seriously, I am learning that change is inevitable, and sometimes, it can actually be good.

Keep an eye out for updates as Brian and I make our way across the country on our biggest road trip yet, and celebrate our 6-month wedding anniversary on the road.

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