Lately I have been having conversations with friends and with people on social media, the theme that keeps coming up, at least for me, are feelings of uncertainty. I don’t know what is next in life and exactly where I am going. And usually, I am ok with that.
But lately it’s bothered me more than usual. And you would think I would have made friends with uncertainty especially with how my last year and some odd months have gone. It’s been unconventional by any means and I am not where I envisioned myself 5 years ago. I have been living in uncertainty for over a year. Sometimes I get tired of waiting for God to open the next door I am supposed to walk through. I think some of it has to do with the time of the year for me because last year around this time I experienced similar feelings of uncertainty.
I have learned recently that if I choose to play into this feeling uncertainty and not rely on God, it will lead you to a place you don’t want to be. There is a potential decision that I have been mulling over and over again in my head to the point it has become obsessive thoughts and torment. In this decision, there was no right or wrong decision. It’s more like a fork in the road in my life. On one hand, financially it would practically make sense, it would be the more conventional way of doing life. I would have a stable job with benefits and it would be a new career for me. On the other hand, I would be taking the unconventional way in life and it would much riskier financially. I would be doing several different jobs while building my business. I had gone back and forth between doing what is practical or having a flexible schedule. For ever reason I thought I should potentially pursue the job, I had a reason not to. This lead to increased anxiety about the uncertainty feeling I was experiencing and the fear of making a decision I might regret. Which ultimately leads to decision paralysis. I even did a decision tree but because I was in decision paralysis, it did not help me to make a decision. But I kept walking through the open doors while still experiencing the torment in my mind.
One day it occurred to me that God is not a God of torment and obsessive thoughts. This decision essentially had become an idol of indecision in my life. My thoughts and conversations would always somehow lead back to this decision that I needed to make. Once I realized this, I decided to give it to Him and just trust Him for my answer. You would think this is the end of my torment but then I would have moments where I would take it back. And every time I took it back I could feel pain in my back where I carry stress or when I was thinking about making this decision I realized I was clenching my jaw. I also noticed my increase in irritability and less patience.
I realize what I was experiencing was not peace. When I decide to change something in my life, I always look for God’s peace. And I know that I have God’s peace when I know without a shadow without a doubt of what I am supposed to do. I become stubborn and no one can change my mind other than God.
I realized that the answer that I was looking for was there all along and that I needed to pay attention to the cues that I was being given. There are some things that I learned or was reminded of in this.
Here are a few questions to ponder to think about in your life. Have experienced decision paralysis because you gave the feelings you are/were feeling too much power? Do you have trouble deciphering what is truth and a lie in your life especially when it comes to your feelings? Are you always second-guessing your decisions because you don’t trust yourself to make the right decision?
Total cases: 492,416
Total deaths: 18,559
(According to CDC, on 4/11/2020)
This week the statistic of the COVID-19 pandemic hit me in a new way. Prior to this week, they were just a statistic and sad to say they were not much more than that. I look at this number of deaths this is 18,559 people who have died since January 21, 2020(that is only 81 days). There is a person with a name, a family and a life behind each number. A person is a person no matter who they were or what they did. They are still a person that God created to be on this earth for a time. People matter to God so they should matter to us.
There are people who will argue that this statistic is inflated or incorrect, that some of those people died of something else but tested positive for COVID-19 or let us not forget the numerous conspiracy theories that are out there surrounding COVID-19. Can we stop arguing?!? The fact is that 18,559 people have died in the United States in 81 days! This number does not include the people who have died that are not related to COVID-19.
Let that sink in for a little. 18,559 people have died in 81 days in the US.
How does this not bother us? How does this not sadden us? How is this not like a sucker punch to our gut when we hear it?
Can we put aside all politics, conspiracy theories, etc? And mourn with the people who have lost loved ones?
Most likely these family and friends will not be able to say goodbye to their loved ones for a while due to the funeral being postponed. Meanwhile, they continue living life feeling and seeing the void their loved one left behind. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about how that would feel, how it would be hard to face each day and how they feel when they see us arguing about where COVID-19 came from or who is responsible for it. At this point, in my opinion when we are pointing the fingers to someone else we are forgetting what is important. Reality is that we are in a health pandemic worldwide with a highly contagious virus. And we all have a responsibility to respond wisely and do our part to help minimize the spread.
While I am on this soapbox, I am going to share something else that I have seen that sends me from zero to one hundred. Some Christians have claimed that this is religious persecution because we are not able to gather in our churches together to have church.
First, this is not religious persecution. Our governing authorities have put things in place to protect us. And we as Christians have a responsibility to follow what our authorities ask us to do. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 The government authorities have not taken away our religious freedom at this time in the United States.
Second, the church is more than just a building. We(people) are the church, not a building. This pandemic has caused Christians to look at how we do church and why we do it this way. It has caused a pivot in churches. Most churches are holding services online. Most of my family is Old Order Mennonite and they have held church services in a building for many generations. They are now doing a hotline call where their congregation can call in and listen to the message. They do not have internet and/or TV so doing church online is not an option. This is a monumental change for this church! This would have not happened if they did not need to think creatively on how to provide a message for their congregations.
Can we put ourselves aside and think of others during this time? This will look different for each person.
It might mean that you stay home and practice social distancing.
It might mean that you wear a mask when you go grocery shopping.
It might mean that you find creative ways to connect with others. Such as phone calls, video calls, send snail mail, etc.
It might mean that your business pivots to be able to continue to serve your clients.
It might mean you work from home now.
It might mean that you no longer have the distractions that you had and you have no excuse not to do the thing you have been putting off.
It might mean that you support essential workers by staying home. As they are putting their life on the line to make sure people have what they need or the care they need.
Nine months ago two days ago, I left my 9-5 job in social work. Leaving that day I left that day broken what felt like a million pieces. I did not know what was next in life. There was so much uncertainty about my future. But there was one thing I had and I knew for sure. That I had peace. I knew I was doing what God was asking me to do. As scary and uncertain my future looked that day, I was resting in this unshakable peace. I was leaving my job without a plan not knowing what was going to be next.
As I look at these last nine months, I see the lessons that God had for me in this valley:
Listen to yourself and your body – Your body gives you so many clues on where you are at emotionally. My body was giving so many clues that I was not listening to long before I realized it. It showed in my eyes and the way I carried myself. It was not until weeks after I was not working I saw a brightness in my eyes that I had not seen in a long time. I shared more about it in my last blog post in this series.
Be willing to take care of yourself even when it seems selfish. – This is something we hear so much self-care but most of us are really bad really practicing it. Self-care looks different from person to person. There are times I would come home from work and watch TV for the night and then go to bed. I have learned that this is not self-care this was a way that I used to escape from what I really needed to deal with or to numb what was going on in my life. But I learned self-care for me looks like going on a drive with my camera and take pictures of things in nature, going for a walk at Longwood Gardens, taking time to connect with God on my own or at a church service, journaling, listening to music, having dinner with a friend, traveling, painting, and spending time with my family. I needed a season of just being in life and not having thinking about anything else.
God always has a plan even when we can’t see it. – If you had told me on the day that I gave my six-week notice that nine months later, I would not have a 9-5 job, I am not sure I would have been brave enough to make that decision. I am an extremely logical person who makes decisions out of logic and reasoning and not emotion. I am grateful that God does not let us look into the future. Actually, I believe this is a gift. Because I would have been paralyzed by what these last nine months brought. Looking back I can see God’s hand through it all.
God is faithful and He keeps his promises. – God has provided for me in the last nine months in all areas of my life. Relationally, He has brought a great group of friends into my life. I have been grateful for their friendship through one of the hardest seasons of my life. Emotionally, He has begun to pick up those million pieces that were broken inside of me and started to repair what was broken. Financially, He had provided for me every month to meet my financial needs and then some. Spiritually, I have learned to trust God in a deeper place than I have before.
It is ok to try something but find that it is not what you want in life. – Through this season I have tried several different things and I have learned that some of the things that I have tried are not what I want for my life. Like I love traveling alone but two weeks is too long for me to travel alone.
Education and mentoring is a great thing! – In the last 9 months, I have taken some time to further my knowledge, especially with business and entrepreneurship. I have learned so much about myself in the process. And who I want to be in this world. What I do and don’t want to do in life.
It is ok to take a season of rest and to take a slower pace in life. – In our world today it is about the hustle and always being on the go. These last 9 months have truly been a season of rest for me. I am grateful that I have had this opportunity to rejuvenate and rest. I would hate to see where I would be if I had not done so.
I need to travel several times a year. – I love traveling and going to new places. Although I hate packing to leave for a trip. Travel was not something I prioritized in my life.
God has created me with a gift of creativity. – When you suppress a gift that you have been given, you will feel like something is missing. I was a high functioning burnout, I did not use my gift of creativity often because I did not have the energy to do so. And I was not feeding part of who I am.
I am a person who loves people and being in relationship with people. – I love to walk beside people on this journey called life. And it is a gift that God has given me. And when I don’t do it, there is part of me missing in my life. It is something that I can do easily. But just because it is easy for me it does not mean that I do not need to be careful about who I choose to do it with and how many people I choose to do it with at one time. I am also an introvert so people can drain me and it leads me to a place that I do not want to be.
Taking a moment out of your day to say hi or have a conversation with someone can be life-changing. – I have had countless people who have stopped their day to ask me how I am doing. Some have even helped me process what I was going through that day. Many have stopped their day to pray for and with me.
Just because I am independent, it does not mean that I need to do life alone. – For anyone that knows me personally, knows that I am one of the most independent women you will find. But if I had stayed to myself and not been vulnerable with friends, family, my counselor, and other people in my life, I would not be where I am today. I would be in a lonely place. I am in a place and do life with people that love me for me.
Vulnerability is a good thing. – Being vulnerable can be one of the hardest things in life. You risk getting hurt. You are letting someone see what you are struggling with or what your weakness is. I can so easily tell someone I am good when I am not. I can hide behind a mask of independence. But this season has taught me that hiding behind a mask does not help me. It actually hurts me. There is no one to share my burden. I have learned that when I choose to be vulnerable it gives others the courage to do the same.
It is ok to take risks even when you are not sure about them. – I generally make decisions on the side of caution. But sometimes I have to take a risk and see where it takes me. God is right there with me no matter the decision that I made.
When you are experiencing emotions, take time to process them and don’t ignore them. – I am not the greatest at identifying and processing my emotions. A large part of this is the culture I grew up in did not encourage you to do this. Actually, it was an unspoken rule. Through the years I have learned that I need to allow myself to experience them, process them but also look at the truth. Sometimes our feelings are the opposite of what the truth is. My feelings do not negate the truth even when I don’t understand my feelings, the circumstances, or the truth. This is something that I learned last summer when I was processing a friend’s death.
When I am feeling fear and anxiety, I am usually trying to control something. – Recently I experienced fear and anxiety, I was trying to figure out why as I am not generally a fearful or anxious person. It occurred to me that I was trying to control something that I was not meant to control. I was trying to take the control out of God’s hand and put the control in my hands. Looking back I realize it was a foolish thing to do but it is something that I try to often because I think I know what is best. Reality is God who created me knows what is best for me because He is sovereign over the whole earth and He sees the whole picture.
***This is part of a series of blog posts of me sharing about burnout and things I have been learning through this. They are numbered in the order that they are written in and to indicate that they are part of this series.***
Have you ever waited for something for a while and it takes longer than you expected it to be? You think I have waited long enough and whatever you are waiting on can come to fruition anytime now. This is where I was a couple weeks ago.
Part of my season of rest has been waiting for God to lead me to my next step. It is easy to say “I am good and just trusting God.” when asked how are life is going. But then there are times that this isn’t true. In the beginning, the waiting wasn’t that bad. But after a couple months of resting and waiting on God’s timing, it caught up to me.
It was a Monday afternoon and I was watching a Steve Harvey clip that came up on my Facebook. In this clip, Steve talked about how God got him to where he is today and that if God can do it for him then God can do it for you too. And as I heard those words tears started to come to my eyes. I realized at that moment the waiting in this season was being to wear on me. And that even though I trust God and His timing for my life, I realized in that moment I was starting to doubt. I was getting tired of my season. In this season of rest, I have gotten so many no’s and the no’s started to wear on my spirit and emotions.
I started to doubt and question… If I had done the right thing by quitting my job with no job in sight? Was that really what God wanted me to do? Was it what I needed to do for myself?
That night I went to the Bible study and we chose one person to share what we were struggling with. And when it was my turn, part of me wanted to just shut down what I was feeling but I knew I needed to share. As I began to share with my friend, tears came to my eyes again and they kept coming as I talked about my feelings and doubts. After my friend prayed for me and I shed some tears, I felt better. My doubts and feelings were still there but after that I was reminded that I was not alone in my journey.
I realized it is ok for me to have these doubts and feelings but it is what I do with them that is the important part. If I decided to dwell on my doubts and feeling rather than sharing them with someone else and giving them to God. It would have lead to worry, worry to anxiety, and anxiety to stress. Worry, stress and anxiety robs us of our peace and joy.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34
Light in the darkness
That is who you are” – Way Maker
Yesterday I got news that a friend died from cancer. He leaves behind a wife, family and friends who are grieving his death. Tonight at church I had a hard time singing these lyrics to this song as I was processing my friend’s death. All a sudden I could not sing these words because I started to question why God did not heal my friend. If He is the miracle worker and promise keeper, why did He not heal my friend on this earth so that his family and friends do not need to feel this pain of him not being on this earth anymore?
There are many questions you ask when you are grieving and hurting. And it is hard to understand why God did not heal my friend on this earth. Why did my friend’s healing needed to include his death on earth? Why did he have to die at such young age? Why does his family and friends have to go through this pain? I do not have answers for these questions. I am a person that likes to know why. I do not know why my friend died and this truth is hard to grapple with.
Death has a hurt associated with it on earth as we as humans grieve a loss. Because this pain hurts and it is so real. I have felt it in the past and feel it now. Emotions are real and they are given to us by God to help process and experience life. But sometimes we have to be careful that we do not get caught in the hamster wheel of hopelessness when we are processing and experiencing our emotions.
In a time of grief, we can feel hopeless in our pain. But reality is that we can feel hope in a hopeless time. Tonight as a wrote out what I was feeling in my planner, I came to the conclusion that Jesus is my hope. Because He the source of my hope, I can have hope even when it seems hopeless. He does not break His promises to us. He is the source of miracles whether they are received here on earth or in heaven. He is a way maker when it seems like there is no way out. And my feelings do not negate these truths in this moment or any other moment.
Hannah in the Bible experienced this. In the midst of her pain of being barren, she cried out to God with her emotions but she anchored her hope in God even though her situation and pain did not change immediately. Her situation was hopeless and seemed impossible. Eventually she did receive her miracle of a son.
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:10-20
So tonight as I write this blog post, I may not understand why my friend’s death occurred. And the emotions I am feeling are real but tonight I chose to believe God’s truth over my emotions. And I choose to anchor my hope in Jesus because He helps to carry my emotions as I walk this journey in what may seem hopeless at times.
I remember the day that I had my way up call, I remember feeling so broken. Like there wasn’t anything that could take all my broken pieces that I felt that day and make sense of them let alone put that back together. I felt like glass that was shattered into a million shards of glass. I wasn’t sure what to do with my brokenness that day. Along with feeling broken, I felt empty and tired like there was not left in me anymore to give. Looking back I realize that being broken is where He wanted me because it meant that I was at the end of my rope. And I could no longer do anything to fix the broken pieces within me because I did not have the energy or the desire to do so.
In the midst of this broken feeling, I knew I needed to give the feeling of brokenness to God. I had to rely on Him completely. At this point with feeling the way I did that day, it meant that I was at the point that I was willing to surrender and possibly walk away from everything I knew career wise. Because He was and is the only one that can take my broken, empty and tired self and make me whole again. I knew that He would start by taking my shatter pieces, putting them together to make sense of my brokenness and that it would eventually create a beautiful picture again.
“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
While giving to this feeling of brokenness to God, did not change anything physically and emotionally about my situation that day. But it did mean that I did not have to walk alone through this journey of becoming whole again and that He is going to heal my brokenness.
“Even when times are rough and you are in ‘deep waters’ God will be right by your side, leading and guiding you through your worst.” Isaiah 43:2
***This is part of a series of blog posts of me sharing about my burnout and things I have been learning through this. They are numbered in the order that they are written in and to indicate that they are part of this series.***
About two days after I gave my notice at work that I was quitting on May 23rd, the fear and anxiety set in. That Wednesday morning at work, I was feeling anxious to the point it was the closest thing I ever felt to anxiety attack. My muscles in my back tensed up and the tension lasted for days.
These questions kept coming up in my mind.
What did I do? I am leaving a job and a career that I love and is stable. I am giving up my comfort and stability by quitting my job.
How am I going to pay my bills?
Am I going to be homeless? Am I going to lose my car because I can’t pay my car payment?
And the questions and thoughts went on and on.
That morning I kept telling myself God’s truth and that He was going to provide for me because I was following His will. It frustrated me that anxiety was winning that morning and for the few days after. Because no matter how much I tried to apply God’s truth in my life, it didn’t seem to help. I hated that my emotions were over shadowing the truth I knew. But that morning and the few days to follow, I did know that even in the midst of this anxiety; I had a peace that I made the right decision about my future.
The fear and anxiety is not something I was prepared because I have peace in my decision. And this fear and anxiety is something that came and went in my last couple weeks of work. I am sure it will come and go again as I try to figure out the next steps that God has for me next.
Sometime after me giving my notice at work, God gave me a visual for this season of life. The first phase of the visual is that God is holding my hand and leading me into my future. But I can only see up to His wrist and the rest of Him and what is ahead of me is covered with a dense fog that I can’t see anything else but His hand holding mine.
A few weeks after this morning, I was at church and it was the first time that I admitted to myself and God that I am scared for this new season of life. A season of unknowns, a season of trusting in God and a season of peace. That night is where God lifted a little more of the dense fog in the visual He has given me for this season. I could see up to His shoulder and a few days after I could see up to the back of His head as He is leading me. He is leading me like a Father leads a child. And this child is in complete trust of the Father because the child knows that the Father has the best intentions for the child. The Father will provide safety and provisions for the child.
***This is part of a series of blog posts of me sharing about burnout and things I have been learning through this. They are numbered in the order that they are written in and to indicate that they are part of this series.***