I can feel that I’m not alone as I sit here in this darkened room. I’ve heard your voices, seen your tear-soaked posts and tweets, read your emails. So many of us are wrestling some days to merely get out of bed, to serve those we love, and at the end of the day we look in the mirror and wonder what happened. What happened to the passionate drive that once had us bounding out of bed, eager to get a degree or a career or a relationship. With focus we pursued, we made sacrifices, we assessed our abilities, counted the cost, and yet here we are, staring into tired eyes. Did we lose our hopes, our dreams, maybe even ourselves along the way?
Evaluate and Budget Accordingly
I’m sitting in a dimly lit room because my life has not turned out the way I imagined. (Can any among us claim that?) Most mornings I fight the undertow of depression as I climb out of bed enduring a pain level of 7. At times the pain diminishes, but the breaks are few and far between. To my surprise, I have discerned that what I once loathed is actually teaching me discipline and providing stability for my family. Slowly, slowly I am discovering that if I look at each day with hope and a healthy splash of realism, I can budget my energy appropriately. Moment by moment things change, but as I evaluate and assess, I find I have room for what God has planned for my day. He gives wings to my dreams as I trust Him to help me accomplish some things that need doing and also something each day that I need to do to keep hope alive.
I know a great many of us to struggle here. We have crammed in so many commitments (most of them good things) that we don’t feel as though we have time to even sit and read our Bibles or eat supper with our families. Time to pursue dreams! Ha! It seems superfluous and honestly, self-indulgent.
Oh, friend, I know it does.
But what if we were created for worshipping God in the mundane daily tasks that make up our lives and also for the extraordinary dreams He has given us? What if it’s not either or, what if it is both and? What if we are allowing fear to boss us and talk us out of being who we are called to be?
Speed Up or Slow Down
I recently took a risk and it feels like one of the most foolish things I have ever done. I wrote a book about my messy, mental-collapse in Memoirs of a Headcase: Held by the God of Hope. Everything about it terrified me. The day I found out it went live on Amazon, I pulled up the sample chapters on my Kindle and thought, “Oh, my word, what have I done???” As an achiever, I had spent years studying from experts how to minister, how to write, how to blog, how to build my platform, how to network. Each little step made my chest tighter, but I thought it was the only way to pursue this dream and it was the only way God could use me to reach people. I so desperately wanted to do His work and I so desperately wanted my life to count for something, for it all to matter. When my husband received his Master’s degree, I set a timer in my head. I knew I had three years to do something with my life that mattered before he would begin pursuing his doctorate. What on earth could I do to compete with a doctorate?
You can imagine the hamster wheel I placed myself on, writing books, trying to connect with influencers to build my audience so I could get everything right — so I could prove that I was a worthwhile investment to God. I didn’t know it, but I was trying to earn something I never could, something bought by the blood of Christ and freely given to me: salvation. In God’s eyes I was already worthwhile because when He looked at me, He saw the righteousness of His holy Son. I know now that many of us miss the fact that what Christ did on the cross was enough, and God is pleased with us.
It’s taken several years to recognize what I was doing wrong, how I was missing the beauty of the life that God had for me. He used a mental breakdown complete with debilitating migraines to get my attention. Can I be thankful for the darkroom I’m in? I can, because I now see I had to slow down to recognize His grace already covers me.
It feels more natural to give up on dreams when those dreams are scorned by so many around us. Having a child later in life? Switching careers? Quitting your job to start homeschooling your kids? Becoming bi-vocational? I’m not sure what He’s calling you to. God has called me to not lose sight of my family, which means I can’t put the little energy I have that my illness hasn’t stolen into marketing my line of self-published books. I do some, but I can’t do it all. I have to trust Him with the rest and I’m not planning any best-seller events.
I’ve been tempted in the last few months to resume past behaviors, to try to implement as many expert strategies to succeed as an indie author. I bet you have past behaviors that tempt you, too, things you know would be wrong for this season of your life, but the behaviors seem familiar and familiar can seem less frightening, but I warn you. Escape what tempts you to leave behind the full faith it takes to follow God. Strategize what will be best for you and for your family (if you have one) at this time. Listen to the advice of godly counselors who know you and your situation, flee experts who say “you have to do it this way.” They can speak of what worked for them in their particular set of circumstances (which are not going to be identical to yours) and you can learn from some of their insights. But understand that what God is trying to teach you and teach them is probably very different. Lean into Him and trust Him as He leads you to not fear, but move forward.
Oh, how I’m praying for us, friend, that our hardships and pain will lead us to walk more closely with Him and that we won’t let it deter us from pursuing the dreams He has placed on our hearts.
Planning and Trusting Those Plans to God
I am so blessed by the support and love of so many of you as I have shared my story. I have sold several copies of my nonfiction book, Memoirs of a Headcase: Held by the God of Hope, and given away many free Bible studies. As always, contact me if someone you know needs this book, but can’t afford it.
I am excited as I prepare my first young adult novel, Beyond the Tower, to be released in time to be given as a gift for Christmas. I am praying that as people journey with Rapunzel, they will read it with friends and find opportunities to discuss the difficulties of those things that imprison us, fear that holds us hostage, depression that tries to strangle our lives. I have already had some fascinating conversations with people about striving to trust God in difficult times (more about that in an upcoming blog).
If you would like to be part of my launch team to read and help promote this book, I would be happy to send you a free electronic copy a month before it comes out and lots of fun ways you can participate. Just contact me here and thank you in advance for your excitement.
Special thank you to Sheryl Chann for letting me Link-Up to this month’s Chronic Voice blog. It has been such a gift to participate in this precious community with its unique people who face so many challenges.
Photo credits: Oscar Keys, Alexandra Gorn, Kristina Flour, and Rawpixel.