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BTS, Pandemics, & the Loss of My Soulmate

BTS, Pandemics, & the Loss of My Soulmate

BTS, Pandemics, & the Loss of My Soulmate

I’m going to try really hard to not make this a stream of consciousness type of thing, but this whole pandemic/quarantine/epic-world-crisis situation is sending my emotions into overdrive. I’m feeling all the feels pretty much every day, but my biggest recurring “feel” has to be grief.

It’s understandable, I guess, considering the times we are in.

So, today, I was out taking a walk, listening to my music — my music being BTS, at the moment. Yes, I’m a grown-up, but my Korean daughter has recently turned me on to K-Pop, and I’m smitten. Anyway…I’m listening to their latest album and a song called, “Friends” comes on. It’s about the friendship between two of the band members and at the end of the song, they start singing, “you are my soulmate,” to each other. At first it struck me as a bit odd. Other than in the Bible, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of friends being described as soulmates, and it got me thinking.

My husband is my soulmate in every sense of the word, and I am fiercely loyal to him. For me, no other man would fill his place if anything were to happen to him. It’s just how I’m made, personally speaking. (There’s absolutely no hidden commentary in that for others who have lost spouses and remarried; I have a few friends in that situation and I’m truly happy for them.) The point is, I’ve known this about myself for a long time, and I’m at peace with it. One soulmate, for life.

But when I heard that lyric this afternoon, a familiar (though dormant) pain shot through my heart like a flaming arrow. I instantly made the connection.

…my eyes are welling up as I type this…

I did indeed have another soulmate, of the friendship variety.

Way back in my late 20s, I was married with two young children, but at the same time, I was incredibly lonely. In one of the most profound, heart-stopping moments of my life, I heard the voice of God. Not audible, but recognizable all the same; and He told me He was bringing a friend “like no other” into my life. For months, I wracked my brain and was on hyper-alert, trying to figure out who this friend was or could be. Did I already know her? Would I recognize she was the one? How would I know?

Then I met Ingrid.

 

She was a recent immigrant from Holland, nearly 6 feet tall, blonde, and spoke in a heavy Dutch accent, usually with unsettling boldness. I met her at a welcome party hosted by my church, who had just hired her husband as our youth pastor. We shared a conversation about adoption (I’m an adoptive mom and her sister has 3 adopted kids) and I thought she was nice. That was pretty much it.

Not long after that, however, she asked me to be a part of her worship team, even though she hadn’t a clue whether or not I could sing. But she seemed confident in me. So, I did. Before long, she was inviting me to her house to hang out and talk, and she made it clear she wanted to know “the real” me — something I had not experienced before in a friendship.

But she wasn’t intimidated. She never seemed to be intimidated by anything, actually, and I admired that. And thus began our friendship, through what would probably be the most formative years of both of our lives.

We raised our kids together. I spent so much time hanging out on her couch, laughing, crying, drinking coffee (and later, wine,) that my husband (you know, the soulmate) sometimes wondered when I’d ever be coming home. We were pretty inseparable. It was the most natural, symbiotic, give-and-take relationship I had ever had outside my marriage.

She saw the real me. Like, the real me underneath what I thought was the real me. And she loved who she saw. She called out every good thing she identified in me and blessed it. She never, ever shied away from telling me the truth or telling me where I needed to grow. I didn’t always like it, but I needed it. She loved me unconditionally and without reserve, and I loved her the same way.

Those were years of growth, of change, of ridiculously hilarious capers, and even tragedy, on occasion. Always in the back of my mind (where you stuff the things you don’t want to face,) I knew that one day, she would have to leave. She and her husband weren’t citizens, and eventually, their work visas would run out and they’d move on.

When she left the country, I thought my heart broke so completely it would never mend. For the next several years, we talked on the phone at least weekly, sometimes more. We visited a couple times a year, and we watched each other’s kids grow and change over Facebook.

Never in my darkest dreams did I think she would die. Never.

But she did.

She got cancer and it was diagnosed late. We squeezed every bit of love and friendship and time out of those last couple of years. Neither of us had regrets, and for that, I’m grateful. Ingrid fought hard through it all and died with the same grace and spirit she lived out every single day of her life.

She was my soulmate.

It’s been nearly 6 years and I still ache when I say her name. I am blessed with a circle of beautiful, amazing friends that I love very much, but no one…nothing…has filled the void she left.

These past 6 years have been the hardest years of my life (even apart from her dying,) and they have been harder still because I’ve faced them without her.

I miss crying on her shoulder. I miss laughing until we could barely breathe. Her voice, her reassurance. Her presence.

God, I would give anything to hug her again.

I remember hugging her the last time, knowing it would have to sustain me for the rest of my life until we meet again on the other side. But it just wasn’t long enough. I didn’t have enough time.

We didn’t have enough time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful. Not everyone gets to have a soulmate, let alone two, in this lifetime. But in this crazy, unprecedented time we’re in, the grief hits all the heavier.

And so here I am, letting just enough out as I write as to not drown in my own tears or sink into a pit of despair. Each time this grief hits, I need to give it room to do its thing, and then gently screw the cap back on the bottle, to be opened at another time.

I would never choose to have our friendship cut short, but there is something almost sacred about losing someone you love this way. It’s like that love is suspended, frozen in time, building in a giant crescendo, awaiting the ultimate resolution of the chord when we meet again in heaven. And I know we will.

I choose to see the beauty in my current pain.

In the grief, in this time of global trauma, I choose to embrace that beauty. Not to celebrate the pain; that would be masochistic. But there is a tragic beauty we shouldn’t miss:

The coming together of friends, families, nations, strangers.

The kindness and goodwill that inevitably emerges amidst the darkness.

The songs that celebrate happier times and the love of good friends.

The reminders of the things and the people we hold dear.

The soulmates we have, or had, or haven’t met yet.

I’m grateful today for this reminder. And to gain at least a little understanding of why the pain of Ingrid’s loss is so deep and all-encompassing when it hits.

She was my soulmate. And she’s gone.

Life has gone on after her, but it’s never been the same. God forbid it ever should be. This is true also for our current pandemic crisis. We grieve for the losses — all of them — for the lives, the freedoms, the plans we’ve made, the celebrations we’ve missed. But again, there’s beauty and a whole host of things we are learning and prioritizing in the midst of our grief. Indeed, life will most certainly go on after all of this is over, but it’ll never be the same.

God forbid it ever should be.

faithfearGod's lovejourney

I Cried in Yoga Class

For years, I avoided doing yoga because I didn’t want to be a bad Christian. I’d heard and read countless teachings about how it was basically “dabbling”–a gateway or portal into Eastern mysticism, and ultimately, the demonic. One of my biggest fears has been...

The Journey Through Grief (The Healing Power of Letting Go)

The Journey Through Grief (The Healing Power of Letting Go)

The Journey Through Grief (The Healing Power of Letting Go)

You might want to keep scrolling if you don’t want real and raw, because that’s where I am right now, writing this piece.

There is a certain, maddening pain when someone or something you love is ripped away from you, but it’s when you finally concede and let go that the real grief begins.

And it sucks. It sucks so bad. The loss, the powerlessness, the emptiness. And on top of it, the harsh reality that you must, must begin slogging through it if you are ever going to heal and be able to move on.

Five years ago, I lost the best friend I’ve ever had to cancer. Today, I’ve come face-to-face with the possibility that we may have no choice but to place our teenaged adopted son somewhere else until he turns 18 and (God-willing) graduates high school.

The child we moved heaven and earth to get here.

The child whose eyes melted my heart in the heart of Africa where I met him.

The one about whom I uttered secret, anguished prayers to Jesus for all four years it took to finally bring him (and his sister) home.

I see my dream of a happy, triumphant family — of love being enough to overcome all the obstacles — slipping away, like mist from my empty hands.

My heart is crushed.

I’ve not encountered this particular brand of pain before, but the feeling is eerily familiar nonetheless. It’s the feeling of standing on that precipice, ready to take that shaky step forward and tumble down into bottomless sorrow, hopelessness, and despair.

I’ve done it before. But this time, my friends, I know better. I’m telling myself (and encouraging you) not to take that step and follow them down the pit.

This is the point that you and I have to allow the work of grief to take over. And as I said, grief begins with letting go. Most of us have heard about the 5 Stages of Grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. But whether or not we experience any or all of those stages, I believe the best and healthiest way forward is this:

Surrender.

It’s such an emotionally-charged word — and for good reason. It’s an admission of powerlessness. Over your loss, over your pain, over a situation you couldn’t control.

The odd thing is, surrender is very much a choice — it doesn’t just happen to you. It’s an acknowledgment of truth. And for you and me, that truth is that we are experiencing something extremely painful. Sadness, loss. Maybe what has happened has been unjust, wrong, or unfair. Whatever the feelings are, we need to acknowledge them, and what’s more, voice them.

And then, surrender to the emotions that surface.

There’s no one right way to do it, but stuffing them down isn’t among the good options. Whether we need to cry softly or wail, privately, or with others, or express our anger in whatever (safe) ways we need to, we must allow ourselves to take this step forward in the journey through grief.

I know some of us fear losing all control if we give in to those feelings, but losing control is okay in a safe, “controlled” environment. One that has limits in place (time and/or people,) so that you aren’t completely overcome by the waves of pain. There must be an endpoint to it, at least for that day.

Letting go of those massive emotions in short sessions is like releasing steam from a pressure cooker so the lid won’t blow off. Again, this kind of surrender is a choice and under our control, even if we don’t feel like it is.

We also need to surrender to — that is, give ourselves permission to voice — the thoughts and questions that invariably accompany our emotions.

I feel like it’s so important that we don’t shut this stuff down in ourselves or in other people. In fact, it’s damaging if we do. We need to express those fears, those what-ifs, those whys. Don’t interrupt them with platitudes or well-meaning encouragement, or even worse — “silver linings.”

It isn’t a lack of faith, or an admission of despair and hopelessness to voice these things. We are going to be thinking them anyway, and voicing them aloud gets them up and out of our heads, where we can deal with them directly. Sometimes once we’ve heard ourselves, we can counter our own ugly thoughts with the truths we know and already live by. Sometimes, we do need perspective from others, but it’s usually more helpful to ask the grieving person questions that will facilitate their own sorting-out process.

How you respond to a grieving person matters. Think before you speak.

One my biggest pet-peeves is hearing the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” That’s bullshit — and not at all biblical, either. However, what IS true is that, no matter what you’re going through, you will never experience more than what God can handle. And that brings me to my last point.

In our deepest pain, we need to surrender to God.

Simple, but probably the hardest thing to do. And He knows that. Surrendering to Him doesn’t mean you have to agree or understand, or acknowledge anything at all — except that He is God, and you are not. And the honest-to-God truth is that He knows you and loves you more deeply than any person on earth. Above and beyond everyone else, He knows firsthand what you are going through, and how you are feeling. He grieves along with you, even though He can see the big picture and knows how it will all work out. Scripture shows us this in John 11, when Jesus weeps along with his friends, knowing full well He will resurrect Lazarus moments later.

I used to hate it when some quoted Romans 8:28:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” 

It always felt dismissive to me, and somewhat manipulative, like, “stop crying and focus on God’s plan for you.” But I’ll tell you what.

Right now, we are scrambling to figure out next steps for our son. Our hearts are aching with love and concern for him, and we are making call after call, trying to get him the right kind of help that will set him up for the best future possible. He doesn’t know that that’s what we’re doing right now, and maybe he never will — unless it comes as a lightbulb moment in the middle of a turning point. We are praying that one day, he will come to his senses and realize that all the time, his parents have been loving him and fighting for him and doing everything we can to give him a good future.

That’s what Romans 8:28 really means — except God is perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, and an infinitely better parent than we are.

Your loss isn’t “for the best” (in most cases,) but somehow, some way, God will use it to birth something good and beautiful and maybe even life-changing in you. We have that hope. And in my book, that hope is a faith-filled expectation.

It’s something we can count on, by faith.

In the case of our son, we can set before him our very best plans, but it is his choice whether or not to step into them, and to engage in the process of his own healing.

Dear reader, that is our choice as well.

In the throes of grief and with your breaking heart, you and I can choose right here and now to surrender to God and to the process of healing and renewal He is working out for you behind the scenes.

Yes, slogging through our grief is a necessary journey if we are ever to heal. But as lonely as it can feel, we never walk that journey alone.

I really welcome your feedback here. Share your stories, your heart. Help each other feel we aren’t alone.

 

faithfearGod's lovejourney

I Cried in Yoga Class

For years, I avoided doing yoga because I didn’t want to be a bad Christian. I’d heard and read countless teachings about how it was basically “dabbling”–a gateway or portal into Eastern mysticism, and ultimately, the demonic. One of my biggest fears has been...

God Doesn’t “Take You Back” into His Family After You’ve Gone Astray

God Doesn’t “Take You Back” into His Family After You’ve Gone Astray

God Doesn’t “Take You Back” into His Family After You’ve Gone Astray

got all fired up today after coming across a well-meaning Christian video about Justin Bieber. To be honest, I know very little about Justin Bieber, so this has absolutely nothing to do with him personally.

And I don’t mean to pick on the video , either— I really don’t. Looking at it word-for-word, there was really nothing wrong with it. But a sentence in it hit me square in the chest, because it hinted at a belief many of us Christians hold and champion. So again, it’s not the content of the video I take issue with, but the perspective it brought to mind.

It tells the story of young Justin growing up with deep Christian roots and beliefs, and how, after finding fame and fortune, he fell away from the Lord — pursuing drugs, alcohol, and women. Finally, when he had reached his rock-bottom, he realized his need for God and returned to his faith once again. The narration concluded, “And just like the prodigal son, God welcomed Justin back into his arms.”

Nothing wrong with that, unless you believe that the Father welcomed him back into the family of God, reinstating him as a son.

Because the truth is, neither Justin nor the prodigal son nor anyone else ever ceases to be a child of God, no matter how far “off the path” they wander, no matter how grievous their sin.

What gets me fired up about all of this is the notion that you’re either ‘in’ or you’re ‘out’ when it comes to the family of God.

We Christians are really good at drawing that line. Even worse, we protect and defend the line. And we don’t want anything we perceive as a threat crossing it. Rather, we’d prefer to go “out there” and tell them the good news about Jesus — but also what is required to be one of us and part of God’s family.

And I think that’s all wrong.

Look at it from the perspective of loving parents. If your kid is on a crash course to ruin, he doesn’t stop being your kid. You’re heartbroken that he doesn’t call, that the relationship is strained or non-existent, and that he is falling short of who he’s meant to be. It’s not what you want for him or for you.

But for a variety of reasons, some of our kids are not able (or willing)to receive the love we have to give. Trauma happens. Hurt feelings and disappointments cloud the truth. Maybe they don’t trust us. Maybe they’re afraid. Maybe they feel horrible about who they are. But they’re still ours.

If this can be true of us — imperfect, faulty mothers and fathers — how much more is it true of our Heavenly Father? I don’t believe he sees that line at all between His children. “Believers” and “Non-believers.” We’re all just His kids, and His desire is to have close, healthy relationships with each of us.

So, when a prodigal returns back to God, it’s his heart that has softened toward God, not the other way around. The Father maintains the love He had for him all along. It’s really the rest of “the family” that presents the biggest challenge.

And that’s you and me.

The reality is, it’s not always easy or pleasant for us to assimilate a new sibling into the family. My husband and I adopted 2 older children (siblings) when our first three kids were 13, 15, and 20. The kids were all on board with the adoption, but none of us really had any clue how hard the adjustment would really be for everyone. It’s actually the perfect illustration for what I’m talking about here.

The new kids had backgrounds, issues, and behaviors that were decidedly unlike those of the members of our existing family. Our first three kids shared a long history, memories, and their own family “culture.” I can assure you everyone did not mix well for a very long time — every day we fought the ‘us and them’ mentality. It was exhausting, frustrating, and often heartbreaking for us as parents, longing for us all to be one big happy family. But here’s the thing: do you know what makes us a family? It isn’t rules or culture or even love (in the warm fuzzy sense.)

What makes us family is the name we all share and the commitment we have made to be one.

We Christians are not Christ-like at all if we view people with different beliefs and behaviors as outsiders. They are our brothers and sisters who do not yet know (or have rejected) the love of our Father. True evangelism is not about “converting sinners” or “winning souls for Jesus” — it’s about showing people why and how they DO belong to God and His family! Jesus already died for their sins and won the battle, but nearly 100% of the time, He’s put the ball in our court to show people the love, belonging, and benefit that comes with having a relationship with the Father.

The elder brother appears in the parable of The Prodigal Son for a reason. He represents what so often happens in the family of God — jealousy, bitterness, judgement, and an unwelcoming heart for those who’ve fallen away or are living as orphans. And I’ll tell you what: I imagine that grieves God’s heart just as much as it does when his other children go astray.

We live in a sad dichotomy these days — the digital age has created incredible interconnectivity throughout the world, yet there are more divisions between us than ever, along with a growing sense of isolation. As Christians, we need to erase those dividing lines, not create or maintain them.

It’s not our job to determine who’s in and who’s out when the Day of the Lord comes — that is His job alone. “Let the wheat and the weeds grow together,” he said. Until harvest time, they may be indistinguishable from one another. We can’t be so worried about pulling up weeds to protect the wheat, that we lose a valuable part of the harvest.

God doesn’t need bouncers posted outside the House of the Lord. As our brothers and sisters (and Justin Bieber) return home, the Father indeed will welcome them with open arms and a heart full of joy.

The question is, will we?

 

faithfearGod's lovejourney

I Cried in Yoga Class

For years, I avoided doing yoga because I didn’t want to be a bad Christian. I’d heard and read countless teachings about how it was basically “dabbling”–a gateway or portal into Eastern mysticism, and ultimately, the demonic. One of my biggest fears has been...

I Cried in Yoga Class

I Cried in Yoga Class

I Cried in Yoga Class

For years, I avoided doing yoga because I didn’t want to be a bad Christian. I’d heard and read countless teachings about how it was basically “dabbling”–a gateway or portal into Eastern mysticism, and ultimately, the demonic. One of my biggest fears has been accidentally straying off the path and away from the God I love so much, but the truth is, my faith has been tested extensively throughout my life, and I’ve only grown to love Him more.

I’ve also come to realize how much fear is alive and active in the evangelical church, and how much it has been utilized in instruction and discipleship–as well as in evangelism itself. I unknowingly internalized the message that I should be afraid, as if the saving bond between me and Jesus hung by a delicate thread, ready to unravel at the slightest stretching on my part.

But stretching was exactly what I needed, quite literally. It’s shocking how quickly you get all stiff and creaky when you hit middle age, and I knew if I didn’t work at becoming more flexible, it would only get worse.

Enter, yoga class.

So there I was, a total newbie, trying hard not to look like one. My thoughts darted back and forth as I worried about mantras and chakras and auras…and the possibility of dislocating something. I sat cross-legged on my mat, trying to dial down and focus on my breathing, when I noticed the background music shift from the pan flute to piano, and recognized the soothing voice of Julie True, singing the name of Jesus. I closed my eyes, sighed, and felt safe.

As the class got going, I did my best to follow along with the instructor, sneaking glances at the lady to my left, hoping my poses looked remotely like hers. But, in looking around the room, I didn’t notice anyone else’s knees violently twitching while they were trying to balance, and nobody else tipped over and fell during Warrior 3. I started to slip into shame, embarrassment, and negative self-talk. “Oh God, please help me,” I thought.

And suddenly, something else drew my attention.

The soft, gentle voice of our teacher. Every instruction she gave was an invitation to participate at the level we could. She encouraged us to leave our comfort zones and try what might be a challenge, but she also gave permission to stay exactly where we were if we didn’t feel ready. She talked about creating safe places for ourselves and each other.

Every word was an extension of grace. I felt no judgement.

Peace.

I thought about how, when we sing worship songs in church, the repetition of certain phrases gives us time and space to receive the truth in them; how those words, repeated over and over again, break through our barriers and land in our hearts. Surprisingly, I found this happening to me in yoga class.

All those truths our teacher voiced about grace and peace and safety and invitation began to drop like little seeds into my fearful heart. And before long, the familiar feeling of God’s presence arose within me. I could feel my chest tighten and a lump forming in my throat.

It was at that point that we were instructed to lie down on our mats and begin to tune in to whatever was happening inside us. I sensed His Spirit and my body felt heavy. The teacher was still speaking softly when I heard a voice say,

“You…are…enough.

Whether it was hers or God’s I do not know. But the corners of my eyes began to sting as they dammed a reservoir of emotion I didn’t even know was in there.

The teacher came behind me and gently placed her hands on my head, and hot tears streamed down my face. I hoped she didn’t notice, but they were impossible to hold back any longer. God was near.

And I understood, all in a moment’s time, Romans 8:38–39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is the truth.

Nothing will keep Him from running after you, from trying to reach you and love you wherever you are. And even if you wander away and can’t find your way back home, He will leave the rest of the flock to go get you. This is Scripture, friends!

In yoga, you often hear about finding your edge — that boundary of your physical and mental comfort zone — and allowing yourself to stretch past it and create a new balance. And that’s wise advice–we need to stay flexible or we will become stiff and rigid and cease to grow as individuals. (fellow believers, are you listening?) But here’s the thing, we can do that because God has no edges, no barriers, no zones.

He is not bound by anything at any time, and nothing can separate you from Him. He will find you where you’re at, especially when you love him and are seeking Him. Our Savior promises this.

Surprisingly, this little foray into an area I previously feared actually facilitated the most incredible love-encounter I have had in a long time. I knew this was no spirit-guide or small-g “god” masquerading as The Way during yoga. It was YHWH, Jehovah, Jesus, the one and only God I have loved and served all my life. He met me in an unfamiliar environment in the most beautiful and familiar way.

I learned firsthand through this encounter that I am safe with Him and that He gives me grace to explore the boundaries I’ve feared to cross.

That He invites me to grow and gives me permission to stay where I am, either until I’m ready, or He’s ready to lead me somewhere new.

And that I need not fear.

None of us who love Him does. I’m not suggesting we go out and seek Him through other religions and practices, but I am saying that we need not live in fear for our salvation when we leave our Christian bubbles. Or when we notice and contemplate how He speaks through the secular or the unfamiliar or even through the things we have been warned to avoid.

He is the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills; all truth and beauty not only flow through Him–they originate in Him. And perhaps, when our hearts are open and not operating out of fear, we can recognize His fingerprints, His truth, and His voice shining through people and customs outside our Judeo-Christian circles.

It’s actually part of His plan. If we are to share (and receive!) the love of Jesus in the myriad of ways available to us, we must learn to use and recognize that which unites us.

We have a lot to learn; edges to explore and grow past. Let us not go out into the world in fear we will be drawn away from the God we love. If we have any hope of drawing others into His glorious light and life, we must go in confidence of where we ourselves stand.

My Real-life, Mid-life (Mom) Crisis

My Real-life, Mid-life (Mom) Crisis

My Real-life, Mid-life (Mom) Crisis

When I was a kid, I thought a mid-life crisis meant you bought a sports car because you felt bad about getting old. I also thought it was a guy thing — an old guy thing. Yet here I am, proving myself wrong: a 50-year-old mom with no sports car on the horizon, standing at the crossroads of the rest of my life, freaking out about what to do next.

For me, this is not an identity crisis. One of the best things about turning the big 5–0 is finally being able to live out who I am with security and confidence. That’s been a hard-fought, hard-won battle, forged through years of therapy and “doing the work” it takes to get there. So, it’s not that that I’m grappling with.

It’s literally the question, “What now?” that has had me spinning my wheels for the last several years. And the more I try to figure out the answer, the more I freak out about getting it wrong.

Let me back up the truck a bit to put this in context.

I’m a smart cookie. Hard to know how to say that without sounding arrogant, but it’s the truth. I have a high IQ, have excelled academically, and I have a variety of natural talents. I also chose to be a stay-at-home mom at 24, when I had my first baby. Those two things are not antithetical, but it sure feels like that’s the assumption everyone makes.

I had my first son when I was 24, and five years later we began our adoption journey(s). At 29 and 31, I welcomed home our next two daughters from Korea, and I was livin’ the mom life in full-force for the next ten years or so. That’s not to say I didn’t earn money over that time period, but I didn’t have a career to speak of. I did everything from painting pet portraits, to cleaning houses, to interior decorating — and the extra money afforded us family vacations and stuff like that. At 40 years old, our lives took a major detour from the original plan when I went on my first mission trip to Africa…and long-story-short, we ended up adopting a son and daughter from Uganda. Unquestionably, all five kids needed me home, available, and highly involved.

But, fast-forwarding to now, our oldest is married, our three daughters are in college, and our youngest son is about to enter his junior year in high school. Everyone (thank God) is doing great and well on their way to becoming well-adjusted, productive adults.

So…(twiddling thumbs anxiously)…what’s next?

The reality is I am NOT sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Or vacuuming my house maniacally. Or even bored. Seriously, I don’t even know what it feels like to be bored.

But here’s the quandary, and what’s fueling my mid-life mom crisis: I like to do a lot of things. And I do a lot of things pretty well. I’ve developed a ton of interests and skills over the last 25 years. Most of them are self-taught, but I have had some training and education. I’ve taken a few grad classes and finished a two-year program at a coaching institute. I’ve published a book, even. But I feel lost as how to make everything (or anything, for that matter) I know or can do into an actual career. A career that makes actual money.

And here are the crossroads I’m facing, which, together, make me feel confused and directionless about what to do next:

  • I don’t need a career to define who I am, yet I want my life to have the definition and structure a career gives.
  • I am creative and entrepreneurial, yet afraid to manufacture a career of my own. I’ve gone down a few of these avenues already, and they’ve pretty much ended up being dead ends.
  • I stand behind my choice to be at home with my kids 100%, but I still find myself justifying/apologizing/qualifying when asked, “So, what do you do?” Hello, insecurity, my old friend.
  • …also, the dreaded resume filled with “life experiences,” rather than employment…
  • …and…I’m. Afraid. of. Failure. (there, I said it.)

 

What’s a mid-life mom to do in this situation? How do I sort out my interests and skills and knowledge and priorities and actually point them all in one direction?? (You’d think I’d know this after 2 years of coaching instruction, but that’s another story.) Recently, someone asked me to title the current chapter of my life and I responded: Trying to Herd My Inner Cats. Seriously, it’s like that. Each thing is so interesting and full of life but seems to want to go its own way.

And I feel like I’m back in college, senior year. On the doorstep of the rest of my life, not really knowing what to do, afraid to take that first step.

Except this time, somehow, the stakes and expectations seem higher — at least for me. I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady who can’t focus and fritters away her remaining productive years. Perhaps the solution is letting some of those cats out the back door to go play in the yard, and keeping just a couple inside.

I have an idea what those might be, but you better believe I’m not making a public announcement of my “new career path.” Been there, done that, back-tracked, felt foolish. I may be an old dog (with no sports car) but I’m still learning new tricks.

To be honest, I had hopes that writing all this down would alleviate some of the angst, but it’s still there. And it would’ve been great to have some sort of happy ending right here at the bottom of the page, but there just isn’t one yet. Yet is the operative word, because ultimately, I do believe I’ll get there. I’ve learned a lot about hope and determination, the payoff of hard work, and the grace of God to lead you on the right path. My very full life of past experiences has taught me that.

Maybe I’ll add that to my resume.

Tell me I’m not alone! Are you going through something like this? Drop a comment in the section below!