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I assume you’ve been there before? On a steep, narrow, winding road? Inching your way to a weekend of skiing and “snow fun”? Way too many times my husband and I found ourselves driving or being the passenger in a packed youth group van, on our way to a MLK or President’s Day Weekend ski trip. Junior and Senior Highers were packed in, steam fogging up the windows, stuck and not moving an inch due to an unidentified traffic backup.

There are many ways to try and pass the time, but I often found my nerves on edge, and the final destination seemed impossibly far away. Sometimes an impromptu snowball fight would break out after the vans had been turned off, hope for vehicle movement dashed. Other times the kids would be sleeping away, and I’d be imagining smoke angrily pouring out of my nose as I realized the schedule was getting thrown off.

It is no surprise, once we had our own two children, that they might just struggle with similar things as their parents. We tend to be a household that runs on high emotions with a strong serving of determination and a bit of stubbornness to top it all off. Oftentimes, frustrations crop up or life deals a dose of the unexpected, and it seems easier to let the anger blow than to approach things with a little forethought.

So we are trying to integrate a new narrative for these inevitable moments. The bumps, hills and mountains that are bound to “land” in our paths on a daily basis are to be expected. The way we choose to react, however, is the variable. We often lean towards an “unexpected response” to these challenges. Maybe the baseball game is rained out or the store is out of your favorite kind of yogurt.   These moments are truly “bumps” in our daily road and journey, but our choice of response says something. Is it unexpected (temper tantrum on aisle 7, anyone?) or are we able to assess the situation, label it as the “bump” it truly is and move through problem solving options? When the van is stuck on Highway 50 towards Tahoe, along with all of the Bay Area escapees, do you get out and have a snowball fight? Or just fume in the car, spilling over with unexpected rage? What mindset do you choose?

It’s a daily, constant choice. Taking a minute to stop. To think and observe. And then, to choose….the expected or the unexpected? The temper tantrum or the calm revoicing? The foot stamping or the slow, deep breaths? The fist slamming on the computer keyboard or the stepping back and asking for help? Are we correctly assessing the intensity of our roads and the unexpected bumps, hills and mountains before making the choice on how to proceed?

Because in reality, our roads aren’t lonely highways in the middle of the nowhere. We are navigating aroundothers, through commitments & agendas, under and over our co-workers, next to our spouses, and betweenour children, often feeling behind, inadequate and stretched {see 9-month pregnancy picture at the beginning of this post!}.

These days, I am trying to take note of the roads that cross over mine or run parallel to my path. Are there offramps I need to pay attention to and use for a break? Rest stops to plan for? Freeways to accelerate on? Our own roads and paths do not exist in isolation. We are made for community. We are made for others. Thus, there is a call to pay attention. To watch for our own responses and choices, to respond with our companions in mind. And…as hard as it might be, to help one another over, around and through the bumps, hills and mountains in the way.

This post is part of my monthly contribution to the Practicing Families blog.  Hop on over there to read more!

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