November 30, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

I’m in a funny place. It’s not an up or down place, a high or a low. It’s an in-between. And it feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Somehow the markers that guide my well-worn path have been moved. But to where? And what’s around the bend?

I’ve sensed it coming for some time.

Maybe it started when an elbow injury sidelined me from tennis in June, taking me out of a sport I love, leaving a gap where fitness, socializing and competition happily co-existed. Perhaps it finds root in the fact that my role as a mom is changing as I try to redefine what it means to mother my tween son and teen daughter. It could be that I’m uncertain how to proceed professionally with a freelance business I’ve let dwindle over the years.

Whatever “it” is, it’s left me with more free time than I’m used to. The schedules that ordered my days have dwindled. Where some might find an amazing sense of freedom, I’ve found restlessness and disorder.

Obviously, writing has filled the gaps. But I’ve discovered too much time alone in front of a computer screen is...well, too much. Too much time to think, ponder and analyze. Too much time to question my purpose in life. Too much time to look around and compare how much more filled/gifted/important/busy/meaningful others' lives seem to be.

Without the externally-induced “to-do’s” I’ve lost accountability. I can write or not. Volunteer or not. Work or not. Clean the house or not. Exercise or not. Call a friend or not. The “or nots” have gained the upper hand, adding to a creeping sense of drift. Is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life? Should I wait for what’s next or plow ahead? If so, toward what?

Deep down, I sense a change of season like it says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (3:1)

But, oh how easily I lose perspective and confuse today’s situation with forever’s reality.

Last week I learned from an orthopedic specialist that, short of a miracle, my elbow will not heal in the near future and my “temporary” hiatus from tennis—and many other daily activities—has become a long-term situation. The imminent life preserver I’ve been hoping would help right my sinking sense of self floated away. It might seem trivial, but I mourn this loss as well as my physical limitations.

The siren song of the pit lured me close to the edge.

Down in the dumps and unable to sleep, I took my dog for an early morning walk last week. There’s something about getting out in 20 degree weather and greeting the rising sun that orders one's thoughts—and allows God to speak.

In the brisk morning air, words from Psalm 139 came to mind: how God knows us completely; how there is nowhere we can flee from His presence; and how we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. Startling insight followed.

I knew that even in this in-between place, God’s right hand holds me. He may or may not have caused this time of pause, but certainly He can use it for good. For months, I’d become increasingly focused on what I lacked and lost sight of what I have. I wanted other people’s blessings instead of embracing the unique gifts with which God has blessed me.

I need to stop looking around or ahead, and focus on what’s been set before me. Surely with the gifts He’s given me, I have much to contribute to the Kingdom. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Jesus said it was: “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 6:33-34)

So, I choose to focus on today. I choose to trust His divine guidance of my time, my writing, my work, my family and my friendships. And I choose to follow—even if I don’t know what lies ahead.

What season of life are you in right now? Are you using the blessings God has specifically given you or are you yearning for the blessings of others? What steps do you need to take to trust that God has hemmed you in and laid His hand upon you?

Prayer:
“O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:1,3,5,9,10,14)

Amen

Read all of Psalm 139. Let God speak to you through these beautiful verses.

15 comments:

Justin said...

Psalm 139 is definitely one of my favorite 'blog entries' in my favorite book of the Bible. Thank you, Kelli, for encouraging me to claim it as my own prayer to the Lord!

My best to you and all the family, with a special squeeze for Tess. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Leebird said...

Kelli,

I can certainly relate to this post. I feel somewhat restless as God works on my heart wounds.

My counselor says I have to take the time to grieve all of the losses we have suffered this year before we can really dig in and get to my heart issues that have caused my dysfunction all these years.

Most of the time, I truly do feel God hemming me in all around with His Spirit thread, but often I find myself pushing against it.

Thank you for sharing your heart...He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it!

Peggy said...

Kelli....
The words you find, the scriptures you are giving us are some of my favorites. Yes, there are seasons we go through, just as Jesus (the human) went through. I know how we can feel self-worthless, but we are God's children and we have been wonderfully and ferafully made by Him for His glory.
Praise Him, dear friend, and any free time, I have lots for you to do. LOL:))
Have ablessed Christmas month.
Blessings and Love...Peggy

Sue J. said...

It's probably most difficult to be in a position in which you feel like you have no direction. Satan is compounding your problem by having you focus on things that are weighing you down.

God making His presence known to you on that early morning walk was a true wake-up call (and not the rude-awakening kind!). Just receiving and embracing His Word shows that you are moving away from the uncertain middle.

And when you ONLY look at His Word and follow His Word, you will regain your sense of direction, for it will be His and you will run unhindered.

That doesn't mean He isn't there to mourn with you.... it's part of the process, I think.

You have much to give; let Him show you how. You know He will!

JerryLyn said...

Kelli, This is a really awesome post. Psalm 139 sure does help us see our worth in God's eyes. I so understand the transition you are in. I've struggled with many of the same things over the last couple of years. And knowing that your injury is more long-term must have a deep impact. Even "stuck in the middle" I just know God is working in your life...to bring to you to your next purpose (or define it more clearly). As I have traveled through similar waters recently, this scripture spoke also spoke to me: Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Thank you for a great post. I truly appreciate your honest writing!

Sassy Granny ... said...

Perhaps it's not the middle at all, but an ending of one chapter before the pages turn to reveal an altogether new one. Maybe.

Whatever it is, I know it's a common theme among mortals. In my life it's served to drive me to my knees when nothing else could. In His presence and His arms is my comfort, which ultimately frees me from stuck places.

I, for one, look forward to hearing about the place He takes you beyond this one.

Be blessed,
Kathleen

Julie Gillies said...

Oh Kelli,

I can SO relate. When God allows things to happen physically it just seems like there is a ripple effect. I understand the drifting thing. In fact, right now my writing is officially "on hold" as I seek the Lord through the month of December. I need my goals redefined and meshed with His. In the midst of it all, I sense the change of which you speak. It seems to be a season of change for us both.

I loved reading about your early morning walk. I love when God faithfully speaks to our hearts. I am still before Him. And I know that He will perfect that which concerns us.

I pray God's peace, clarity and direction for you, my friend.

Chatty Kelly said...

I'm sorry about your injury and I pray that you will soon discover how to get out of the "middle" and where to go from here. You know I read the other day that God created many paths for us, not just one. The bible says he makes our PATHS straight, not our path. So you will start on another path, and he'll still be there.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

So truthful and raw and real. Love it. I have walked where you are currently walking; it's a path that regularly requires my attendance. I don't like it, but have learned a great deal from it. I really recommend you get Alicia Chole's "anonymous." CBD or Amazon carries it, along with her own website, truthportraits.com

It speaks clearly to our "anonymous" seasons, and it seems to me, you might welcome the permission it offers to pilgrims to embrace these seasons rather than reject them.

Love your heart and your capacity to pen your thoughts.

peace to you~elaine

Cheryl Barker said...

Kelli, thanks for sharing so honestly. I'm sorry for the loss you're feeling over the elbow problems -- physical limitations can be so hard to accept.

One thing that helps me with accountability where my writing is concerned is my calendar. I list the things each month in one corner that I need to work on and check them off as I go. Also jot a note on each "day" about what work I did. Kind of helps keep me on track. Maybe something like that could help combat the drifting feelings you mention (though I know you may mean that in a larger sense than just what activities to do on any particular day).

On a lighter note, I kicked off a holiday giveaway on my blog yesterday. Come on over when you get a chance and try to win again! :) Happy December!

Terri Tiffany said...

I've been where you are so many times. What you said about looking at today only is so accurate. Hope your day is good and soon God will share His plans more clearly with you:)

Spring Fricks said...

Wow, I want to print this out and post it to my wall. It was amazing.

I found your blog through Glynnis' challenge.

As soon as I started reading, it hit a chord. I am going through the same thing. I am addicted to activity and used to walk on my treadmill 2.5 miles everyday and loved it! However, I also have scoliosis and have undergone two spinal fusion surgeries. This has never stopped me until this year when the disc below the last fusion began to slip and there is nothing they can do about it.

I now walk with a cane and am limited in what I can do.

It has left me in a weird place. One I'm actually starting to enjoy because God is showing me parts of myself I've neglected.

I can't wait to hear more from you. I'd love to walk on this journey with you.

I know Julie is going through something similar. Perhaps, with God, we can encourage each other along the way.
BTW, I love your writing style.

Dan said...

Kel,
"Sassy Granny" got me to thinking - you know, about this being just a page turning. Then, a song title occurred to me (stick with me, this is actually going somewhere). It's just a peppy little pop number that always makes me feel energized when I hear it, but I confess I never paid any attention to the lyrics - until I looked them up a few minutes ago. Tell me THIS doesn't apply. (Meanwhile, keep posting!)

"The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World
Hey, don't write yourself off yet
It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best, try everything you can.
And don't you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say.

[Chorus]
It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the ride.
Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).

Kelly from South Carolina said...

You know Kelli...yesterday I was flipping through some Bibles from the past which are filled with notes of some tough valley experiences in the last couple of years. I wanted to find a place to hide them. And then I realized they are not to be put away, but to be embraced. Just like our downtimes with God. Embrace the closing of one chapter, and grab hold of all that God wants to teach you as you press forward to the next chapter of your life. Pauses are preperation.

Great post...and WOW...look at all your new friends...is God good or what!

Kelly

Joy in The Truth (Sharon Sloan) said...

I so appreciate your candor...it is so refreshing! We all get "stuck" and probably more often than we like to admit.

As we wait on Him, we demonstrate our trust in Him. He is completely trustworthy.

It's a pleasure to follow sisters-in-the-Lord's journeys with Him.

Warm blessings to you!