My life is colored with girlish hopes, childish delights, and giddy moments of simple pleasure. Baby fever, mooing at cows, and industrially designed coffee shops are pinnacles of joy on any given day. The moments of carefree abandon are inscribed in the most sacred places of my heart. The trips to find stars, moon, or fireworks, random stops on out-of-the-way roads, and unplanned diet cherry vanilla limeades are stored as treasure in an outwardly battered heart.
I marvel at the miraculous nature of those things…there are myriads of unspoken hopes, shattered dreams, and seasons devastated by circumstances far beyond my control in my story. My life bears the scars of ruined plans, scabs of still healing disappointments, and the fresh wounds each new loss brings. Each realm – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – unpacks uglier scars and reveals more of my fractured existence.
I stumbled into this broken-dream reality in the wake of my Crohn’s Disease diagnosis. In the aftermath of the astounding realities I was adjusting to, it became increasingly clear that the plans I had for my life were not coming to fruition. I had spent years preparing to enter the healthcare field as either a physician or nurse practitioner. I had active NP applications out, and as I was encouraged and forced to question my plans, I began to wonder. While I would be a damn good NP and despite being more than qualified educationally and experientially to work in the healthcare sector, I needed to count the cost. I would impact countless lives in this career...but at what cost?
If you asked me for a step-by-step to unscathed living, I would point you to any number of self-help books, self-improvement podcasts, or self-discovery videos. I could even point you to a disturbing number of Christians who would placate you with half-truths, shallow niceties, and perverted Scripture. All of these options would tell you to look for the silver lining, believe the best, and be happy it isn’t worse.
I’m not going to do that, though.
I’m going to encourage you to do hard. To sit down, face the ugliness of your emotions, your situation, and your heart, and confront it head on. I’m going to push you to name the feelings chaotically swirling in your heart and tackle them one by one. I’m going to tell you to take a deep breath and step into the minefield of life, embracing the pain, the struggle, the triumph.
I’m going to challenge you to redream. To address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realms of your life and process in such a way that results in a healthy adaptation to the circumstances, embraces the revisions, and believes in the transformation to follow.
It isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty, and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It is hard. Exhausting. Demanding. As I began to grapple with my plans and dreams, the costs quickly accumulated. My health – physical, mental, emotional – would be threatened, if not decimated. My boundaries would be obliterated. The type of mother I am called to be one day would not be possible. The care of any potential children and foster children in my home would suffer. The life I had envisioned was not compatible with the one I was living.
Living well was being redefined for me, and it started with a simple peek at what I believed about control. I learned the first step in redreaming my days and my life was acknowledging that I actually have very little control over my life.
How many times has something unexpected happened? How many times has something beyond your control drastically and permanently altered your life? How many times have your plans changed?
Life doesn’t look like you thought it would. You’re not where you thought you’d be. You’ve changed direction, dreams, paths, or careers. Your timeline has been shortened, elongated, adjusted. You haven’t gotten the job, the internship, the grades, or into the program you wanted. The relationship that was supposed to be forever ended. Trauma occurred. Death happened. Disease entered the picture. Your plans and perspective changed. You changed.
I realized how I maneuvered through my redreaming process depended on what I relinquished my control to. I found myself asking, “Where do I go when I’m uncertain or scared?” What was I trusting? Was it, for example, my medical team, my medication, the disease, the unknown, myself?
I began to redream. I began to mourn the knowledge I wouldn’t use. I grieved the education I felt was wasted. I was disappointed in myself and feared the disappointment of others who expected this of me. I confronted the lies that my worth lay in my career; that I was not meeting expectations if I went down a different path. I tried to force myself to accept being a stay-at-home wife/mom and was elated to discover that is not best for me!
Over and over, I accepted this truth: I can only control so much. We can plan all we want, color-code everything, and have 16 back-up plans, but life still happens. We can hope and pray for the world we dream of, deeply desire, and intensely want, but at the end of the day, life still happens. Where do you turn when life overwhelms you?
It truly doesn’t matter what you believe in – the God of the Bible, Allah, the universe, a mystical crystal, a person in your life, or a higher version of yourself – your control will be surrendered to someone or something.
When you cannot make sense of a situation or a circumstance changes your life….you will ascribe that unknown to something outside of yourself. What is it?
If this truth hits harshly…I am sorry. There is no way to go through this life unscathed. It’s okay to mourn that. I’ll cry with you. Bad things happen. Hard things exist. The unwanted and the unthinkable will happen. I’m so sorry. Pain is unavoidable, and deep wounds are inevitable. I hate it, too.
We all want to be okay when that unexpected thing happens. No one likes to be uncomfortable or feel our heart squirm. We want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Solid, unwavering and predictable is our desire when all seems lost. We long for the assurance that all will return to normal. We seek someone or something that makes us feel safe. We yearn to feel seen, known, loved, and secure, and we tend to chase that peace to its end. Choose what you are chasing wisely, friend.
Relinquishing control unwisely may lead to STAGNATION. This is a state characterized by a lack of movement, improvement, and progress. Maturity may be missing, minds may be idle, and life becomes static. We become stale and sluggish. Passivity is the defining trait of a stagnant person’s life.
The beginning of this response is being “stuck in the rut.” Hear me clearly, friend – this is okay! Feeling stuck intermittently as we traverse seasons of life is normal. Sporadically struggling to be engaged, be motivated, or desire growth is part of our experience in this world. If you feel the pause of a pothole, lean in!
When we find ourselves desiring stability above all else, intentionally call it out. When flourishing in any sphere seems lacking, pay attention. When numbness to yourself, your environment, or the world in general seeps into your life, recognize the rut. Fight to identify where it came from. Let that trench know you are not a permanent resident. Give yourself grace in that fissure.
Dwelling in the rut, though…living there and letting it define you – BEWARE! There is danger in letting this decide your season or your entire life, friend. Have you ever seen an incredibly still puddle or pond…the one with the brackish color, filthy scum on the surface, putrid smell, and covered in foul insects? They are rancid, reek of death, and send you fleeing from their presence. THIS is the resounding effect of stagnation.
It may look like unhealthy cycles of self-destruction, loss, and ruin. Bitterness and resentment color relationships. There may be an arrogant resistance to feedback and change. A stagnant person is blind to the needs of self and deaf to the needs of others. Different is dangerous, and hypocrisy runs rampant. It is a sequence of unteachable, uncorrectable, entitled living.
We each stagnate a little differently. A lack luster life shows up uniquely, and every rut has its own profile. Remember this is a spectrum. Your walk, your still puddle, your pothole will look different, and they will morph and change over your lifetime. There is no guilt or shame in being stuck for a time. Read that truth again, friend. Take a deep breath and fight back when you’re ready. You are not cemented here.
So where would a wise placement of control lead us?
Redreaming! It’s an intentional shift in response to the unexpected, and it refuses to allow the unforeseen to rule our days or our lives. It has its roots in resilience. It encompasses the ability to return after being stretched, and the skills to recover from adversity or crisis.
Elasticity and buoyancy characterize this response. Resisting the temptation to cave and give up for the sake of easy. Battling for life. Doing it again and again and again – meeting every catastrophic wave with the determination to not drown. It is discovering (or rediscovering!) what childish abandon and wonderment are like.
See, redreaming sits down and takes a deep breath. It says, “This was not the plan. How do we navigate this? This sucks. How do we adjust? Life is not over. How does a new normal look?”
Life-altering change demands a reaction, friend. You know this. We might not have control over life, but we always control our response and where we place our trust. We respond in some capacity to everything. Despair is an option…but so is joy. We can choose desperation, or we can claim hope.
For me, living a life controlled by uncertainty, ruled by fear, coerced by doubt, and consistently overwhelmed was not an option. I chose hope. I decided that being consumed by stress and devoured by the need to dictate every moment of my life is not the life I have dreamed for myself. I picked joy. I did not want to stagnate, and I was done living in that particular rut.
I wanted peace in my life…but not just any ole kind. I desired to relinquish control of my life to Someone that would grant peace that cannot be explained or disrupted by the world. I longed for a safety that surpassed anything I could invent for myself. Contentment despite whatever I would experience, and a fearlessness in the face of the unknown and despite change.
I don’t have control over my life y’all. I do not know what my body is going to do tomorrow. Heck, I don’t even know what it is going to do tonight! God has made it evident to me that I don’t even get to control how my life is used or what I do with it going forward.
So here’s what I do.
I choose to redream. I choose to embrace the waiting, the meantime, and the in-between. The value of slowing down and quieting my soul is not lost on me. I choose to adopt the delays, detours, and derailments into my journey. To trust that this has not been wasted – that it will not be wasted. I choose to believe this way is so much better.
I understand that the collapse, the crumbling, and the crushing makes seeing hope difficult and walking forward near impossible. I know it feels like destruction. I feel that, too. Being redirected hurts. The unexpected and the unanticipated feels paralyzing. Wrestling with ruined dreams, fragmented plans, and a life out of control is utterly terrifying. Settling in the rut is comfortable.
I choose to shift, though. To find healthier boundaries, restorative rhythms, and life-giving truths. I choose to nourish my soul first, healing from the inside out. I choose to learn from the crisis, living better and pursuing growth. I choose to acknowledge this as a grueling process to be experienced in varying forms and differing intensities throughout my life.
Regardless of where you find your life today, friend, know this. The pain and the struggle accompanying your minefields are not forgotten. In the rut and in the flourishing, your reckoning is not unseen or unheard. Utter heartbreak was not meant for you. Constant wreckage is not yours to bear. Fear does not have to be your companion.
Stuck or thriving, self-awareness is not easily cultivated. Pivoting is not easy – be gentle, dear friend. Celebrate those small victories. You have not failed. Be patient with your season, your capacity, your heart. Sit where you are – still puddle or burgeoning grandly.
Believe there is better. It is not an empty promise. “Stuckness” does not define you. The rut does not deem you a failure. Elasticity is not born overnight, and redreaming is never easy. I am so proud of you, friend. Plod on. I’m right there with you <3