Lisa M. Miller* *Mind-Body Health Specialist*Teacher*Chaplain
This article was written in the spring of 2015
I wrote a health and wellness column a while back that claimed balance is possible in the face of chaos. I promised that we are all capable of maintaining some degree of inner peace no matter the external stressors—that even challenge and grief are healthy aspects of our lives—that maintaining faith through the challenge is balancing in and of itself.
But I had written that column from the window seat of a charming straw-roof cabana in the Yukatan Peninsula just steps from the ocean, as a warm breeze kissed my hair. I was in an emotional and spiritual place far, far from grief, and in a geographic location far, far from the stressors of typical daily life. The only challenge I felt on this vacation concerned choices over the dinner buffet desserts.
As I wrote, a little voice in my consciousness said, “Writing about faith and balance from this place of paradise might not be believable. Feeling faithful and somewhat balanced while chaos swirls around me, now that would be something (I do NOT want).”
It wasn’t long before I would to be tested, of course. I returned home from my vacation and within the first week, four mini crises presented themselves, painfully. From the living center of chaos, I was compelled to revisit my claim about faith and balance.
What did I do? I leaned on all of my rebalancing support resources. For me, the saying, “Don’t wait for the fire before buying the hose” is invaluable, and it turned out that I’d been keeping an impressive hose collection. Because of this, I found myself managing with more grace than I had as a younger woman—it was very clear to me that I wasn’t going it alone, that I didn’t have to.
One significant resource I relied on that week was prayer. While walking my dog, I opted for the route that would take us to the hundred year old trees and the croaking frogs pond. I sat down where I could feel the vibrancy of nature all around me, and I asked God for help, a lot of it.
I remember specifically not knowing what the help would look like for this and that issue, and especially for my daughter Abby, struggling with a problem so deeply that she’d lost her appetite for days.
I begged God for help and for the ability to recognize the help when it showed up.
Two days later when she finally felt hungry, Abby had me google on my phone the new Domino’s Pizza store in our Lexington, Kentucky (Andover neighborhood) location. I dialed and we huddled together over the speaker-phone conveying our dreams of extra toppings. But when it came time for the phone number, pizza guy could not make sense of my cell number. Again and again we repeated it as he typed away on his Domino’s Pizza computer, but politely he kept apologizing that there were too few digits.
"Too few digits?"
After several minutes of this, puzzled and losing patience, we told him we’d call back. Was this some sort of joke?
As I clicked “end” on my I-phone, the phone number I had dialed popped up on my screen before shutting off.
It read: +44 1264 363333.
WHAT THE %&*@!
Yes, it was a very good joke! I had accidentally tried to order a pizza from Domino’s in Andover, in the United Kingdom.
We looked at each other and then at the phone, and then at each other. The swirling confusion around us dissolved into laughter, “Hahaaha, the most expensive pizza on the planet, haha haha haha!”
Laughing harder, “After this phone call, we can’t afford pizza, hah hah hah hah hah!”
Tears streaming, “I hope we’re still hungry next week when it gets here! Hahahahahahaha haahaahaa haaahaaahaahahahahahahahahaha!"
We laughed at ourselves for about 10 minutes and then another 20 as we called our family members to share what we had stupidly, hilariously tried to do.
Finally, with faces hurting we slowed down, exhausted. Abby looked at me calmly, and with a new light in her eyes, she said, “I feel better.”
I feel better. It's what I had begged God to help her feel.
Miraculously, what changed for my girl most in those minutes, was her own sense of perspective. While the details of her week of struggle remained, suddenly her world felt much bigger than the narrow confine of her problem. Indeed, what better way to gain wider perspective than to order a pizza overseas!
But what’s more, when 16 year-old Abby saw that her problem wasn’t her entire life, just merely a part of it, one small chapter, I knew that my prayer had been answered. God comes through every time, often in unexpected ways. And has a most excellent sense of humor.
In retrospect, as I navigated through four rapid crises that involved grief, challenge, and ensuing imbalance, it felt more profoundly true to me, that faith was indeed playing a starring role in my coping process through all of it.
I whole-heartedly feel that we control the tone and the color of our lives—we don’t control what happens, and especially not when things go wrong, but we decide how to respondwhen they do.
For me and my family, laughter is good medicine and has been a resource through some tough times. But when deep in the hole of personal pain, it’s very hard to remember that it actually helped before–that anything ever will.
That’s where prayer, friends, family, therapists, nature, and God come in. They all remember for you; you get to have the laughter when out of nowhere it comes on.
Though we might not imagine how our prayers will be answered, it’s recognizing God’s response in the little things that opens the window to the healing and strength to keep going.
Then you recall that you always do get back up, dust off, look around, and rebalance. A vacation in paradise feels nice for a spell, but coping through crisis feels invaluable, always.
May you find rich pizza moments this week.