7 Lessons from a Car Accident

7 lessons from a car accident

About a week and a half ago, I was in a car accident. Someone ran a red light and smashed into the passenger side of my car. There's something about a car accident that feels like a microcosm of life, and I've been thinking about several lessons I'm learning from it. In no particular order, here they are:

1. A sudden change of direction can cause hidden pain. Get help. A side impact accordions the spine in crazy ways. I have only one bruise but will have weeks of chiropractic care. It is not something that would just go away without the help and advice of someone else. Yet, what we recognize physically, we often don't recognize emotionally. When life takes a sudden change of direction, like a death or illness or job change, there may be inner damage and trauma not immediately apparent. If you are one who bounces back quickly, and "can handle it," push yourself to allow others in. There may be things under the surface that you can't yet see, that someone else could help you work through.

2. Feelings are not one-dimensional. Life is often terrible and wonderful at the same time. My car was totaled, that sucks. I was out of town when it happened, which was a pain. My body is still sore, and that is annoying... But also... I was the only one in the car, which means no one was on the passenger side, thank God. I walked away with relatively minor injuries- I didn't even have head trauma, and that is amazing. The other guy owned his responsibility in the crash, so it didn't become a he said-she said argument, which is so helpful. I am hurt and grateful, frustrated and relieved, sore and happy, all at once.

3. Be careful with your theology in times of trouble. I have been a pastor for years, and to be honest, I don't know how to describe God's role in this. Because here's what I know: I was lucky and many others are not. To say that "God protected me" can feel good, but what about my friends who weren't protected? Who were hurt badly or had a loved one die in a car accident? Did God not protect them? That feels gross to me. Especially when victims are kids. The most I want to say is that God was with me then and God is with me now. In the midst of the trauma and pain, joy and gratefulness, God is there. God is feeling with me and walking beside me through it all.

4. People are awesome. So many people's first responses were those of concern and practical care. Do you need to borrow a car? Do you need any help with the kids? How are you feeling? Is there anything I can do? There are many things around us and in the news that can cause us to question the goodness of humanity. Watching how people respond in times of crisis (though honestly, this wasn't even a crisis, just trouble and inconvenience) reminds you how awesome and giving people can be.

5. One change leads to another. Be prepared for the process. Sometimes we think of decisions as existing in one moment of time. We forget how one change can begin a process that can go on for quite awhile. One car accident meant figuring out what to drive home, embarking on a search for a new vehicle, making decisions about our budget, scheduling appointments with a chiropractor, reorganizing the schedule to fit the aforementioned test-driving and appointments into it... And all these changes led to pushing and pulling on other parts of our lives. We often don't know the consequences of a decision until after we've made it. Don't be surprised if things take more time or more work than you thought they would. Process is normal.

6. It is okay to rest. This one might not be difficult for you, but it is difficult for me. I want to hang out with people. I want to get stuff done around the house. I want to write. I want to do fun stuff with and for my kids. I want to study Scripture for future socratic gatherings. I want to do a lot of things. And I feel like since I walked away with minor injuries, I still should be able to do them. I wrote a post awhile back about comparison being the thief of healing and that's true of me right now. I think about that person whose injuries were worse and that person who is so strong, and I think "why should I need a nap?" But I do. If I listen to my body, I do. And I can. And it is good for me to do so.

7. Take your time. But eventually, get back in the car. Some people take awhile after an accident before they are able to drive again. And that's okay. But eventually, life keeps moving forward and you have to make the choice to move with it. It's true that anything can happen, but if you stay in fear of that, you miss out on too much. In the last week, I've explored a museum with my kids, dreamed about future possibilities, and enjoyed great conversation with friends, because I got back in the car. Let change awake you to the possibilities of life, instead of trapping you in the fear of death.

I'm sure there are more lessons I could list, but that feels like enough, at least for now.... 

Wherever life finds you this week, I pray that you can experience and learn from the joy and sorrow of it all. 

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Listening to Rhythms

I am not naturally an early riser. I am disciplined enough to get up with the sound of my alarm when it's necessary, but not without at least one snooze. I relish the rare alarm-free morning, especially if the kids sleep a little later than usual.

When my husband and I went on vacation last week without the kids, one of the things I was looking forward to most was sleep. The ability to go to bed when I wanted and get up when I felt ready, and maybe even take a nap if the moment felt right.

Yet, the entire vacation, I never slept later than 7:00 am. In fact, most days I woke up by 5:30, though I usually didn't roll out of bed until after 6:00.

The first day when this happened, I got up, rather oblivious to what time it was. After all, clocks are optional so far away from work and school and responsibilities. My husband and I both got out of bed, and started making coffee and breakfast before he laughed and told me the time.

Why did we get up so early? Because of this.

good morning sun

Every morning, we awoke to a stunning sunrise, our own private view of Nicaraguan scenery painted in pinks and yellows. As the sun filled our eyes, the sounds of cicadas, birds, and monkeys filled our ears. The earth was waking up, and we arose right along with it. We couldn't avoid it, but neither did we want to. These were some of the most peaceful and lovely mornings I have ever experienced.

One reason this worked was because of when we went to bed. The sun would set by 6:00 pm, while we were eating dinner, and after that, there wasn't a whole lot to do. We would read some by the dim lights of the house, but being off the grid, on solar power, there wasn't a ton of light to come by. We would walk out to the deck to say goodnight to the star-filled sky, and head to bed.

goodnight stars

Usually, the lights were off and our heads were on our pillows by 9:00 pm. Sometimes even earlier. 

So, when the morning sun broke through the haze of our sleep, we were rested, and we were ready to greet it. We paid attention to when the world around us was sleeping and waking, and we followed suit.

It was a lovely and unforced cycle of days.

I think about how often I force my life. When I go to bed isn't based on how tired I am, but how long it takes to get that one last thing done before I sleep. (Or, let's be honest, that one last show watched.) When I wake up isn't based on how rested I feel, but trying to get up a bit before my kids to get a jump start on my day. Those habits aren't necessarily bad: it takes some discipline and sacrifice to achieve goals and get stuff done. But it's the rule, not the exception, that I sleep based on when I can or should, not based on what the rhythm of the earth or my body is telling me. 

We have a pattern of forcing life into calendars and schedules and shoulds. We have lost touch with the natural rhythms of life.

Too often, we live by pushing instead of by listening.

What would it be like to bring some counter-cultural patterns into our days? To sometimes let the sun shine brighter than our calendars and our bodies speak louder than our expectations? How might this help us live by listening more than pushing? How might this make room to hear even more, maybe even the voice of God in our midst?

I want to bring that little piece of vacation back to real life with me. How about you? 

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The Promise of Rest

pillow

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30

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Someone asked me how I was doing yesterday, and my response was “Tired.”

No matter the season, we lay our heads down onto pillows every night. Our bodies always need rest. Yet, it seems at this time of year, we fall to our beds in utter exhaustion.

The weather (at least in this part of the world) does not help, since the sun is not out for long enough to give us a boost, and even if it were, it would be too cold to stand outside and experience it for long. But it’s not just the weather; it’s the way things pile up on top of us.

Most things aren’t bad in and of themselves, it’s the weight of all of them stacked together that becomes tiring to carry. The social gatherings, the shopping, the family obligations, the school concerts, the traditions, the decorating, the baking…. It is all just so much.

Sometimes, many times, I make it worse on myself by trying to be good at everything, and not let anything drop, and not let anyone down by getting a less-than-thoughtful gift, and not forgetting to do things to keep the meaning of the season in the midst of it all. (Like daily blogging for Advent? Who would do something like that? Every year, I love it and hate it all at the same time.)

Rest. I need rest. And not just sleep. I need the rest that comes from letting go. Holding things more loosely. Remembering that my worth is not dependent on pleasing people or getting everything done.

Later in His life, Christ confirmed through His words what His sleeping infant form implied: that He brings us rest for our souls.

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Pie Jesu – Future of Forestry

This song makes it into Christmas rotations on occasion, and after reading the English translation, I think I will make it a more regular one on my list. Here’s what it says,

"Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus Father, who takes away the sins of the world Grant them rest, grant them rest Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus Father, who takes away the sins of the world Grant them rest, grant them rest Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God Father, who takes away the sins of the world Grant them rest, grant them rest everlasting everlasting Rest”


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.