When You Feel Stuck…

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Several years ago, when our kids were little, we paused to take pictures at an outside platform. We were in the World Showcase at EPCOT, looking across the lake towards Spaceship Earth. Eli was just a toddler at the time (and all boy!). I leaned down to fix Abby’s shoe, when all of the sudden, I heard screaming, and Sarah squealed, “Momma, come help! Eli’s stuck!” 

Somehow our little guy had squeezed his head through the opening in the bars and was unable to pull it back out. So there he stood, half of him on one side of the gate and half of him on the other, unable to move in any direction. 

Eventually, we were able to calm him down, and when he scooted a little lower, his head finally slid out. He was instantly off on another adventure as if nothing had ever happened. Like I said, all boy!

Friend, do you ever find yourself feeling stuck?

Maybe you set some goals and start moving forward, only to get part way in and find yourself caught between where you just were and where you are going. It paralyzes you, stopping your momentum and freezing you in your tracks. It can be scary at times, annoying at others, but it’s never fun.

We are nine weeks into the New Year, and I’ve had so many people express lately how they are feeling stuck. Our kids are struggling to stay motivated in school— third quarter is always when they wrestle most. The weather has been yucky, which can definitely affect our mood, as well as our desire to exercise… and if you’re me, to want to eat a lot of chocolate! And now that it’s becoming warmer outside, I am even less motivated, because I just want to enjoy it and not do anything else! Can you relate?

I want to be honest with you… I have also started feeling unmotivated in this “transformation” journey. I am getting impatient with slow progress and irritated with small steps. At the same time, the journey ahead seems overwhelming. 

My house is still overflowing with clutter, my marriage is still imperfect, my new website is still under construction, and my children still wrestle with character issues (go figure). And for some reason, everyone in this house still wants clean clothes and dinner every night! Where’s the chocolate?!

I find myself like little Eli, part in and part out, frozen in place, desperately needing someone to help me.

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What do you do when you feel stuck? How do you get yourself out of that place and moving in the right direction? Where do you find your motivation?

I’ve been thinking about that story with Eli, wondering if there are some tips to be gleaned that might help us get unstuck. Here’s how it went down: 

  • First, we had him take a breath and calm down. Yes, he was stuck, but he wasn’t going to be stuck forever. Perspective is a wonderful thing! 
  • Next, we took assessment of the situation. How did he get there? What was the best way to get him out? Could we get him out on our own or would we need help?
  • Finally, we came up with a plan. We realized he could get out the same way he went in; he just needed to retrace his steps. 

I wonder if we can use those same steps to help us get unstuck?

  • Breathe and get perspective.
  • Take assessment of the situation.
  • Make a plan and do it.

The weather has been so nice here the past week, and I have been able to go for a walk every day. I have learned that this, along with my prayer time, is how I breathe. Something about walking or hiking outside in nature opens my soul and enables me to take a breath. Making this a priority has helped me not feel so overwhelmed by all the things I’m not doing but feel like I need to be doing. It has slowed my mind down enough to remember that I am not going to be stuck forever. I can, in fact, move forward again if I will take the time to get unstuck first. 

And a crazy thing happened— as I began to take assessment of where I started and where I am now, I realized that I have actually made more progress than I thought! I have a really bad tendency to focus on what I’m not doing instead of what I have accomplished. Anyone else relate to that?

When I look at my house, all I see is the piles of clutter, the still-not-decorated basement, the never-ending laundry, and the long list of tasks in need of attention. When I look at my writing projects, I get discouraged at how little I have accomplished compared to what I hoped to have done by now. I notice how Jeff still has to fight for my attention when the kids are around and how we went two weeks without a date, even after I put together “date cards” to make it easier for us to prioritize it! My list of failures just keeps growing.

But I forget  to notice how many “small spaces” I have managed to clean out since January, not to mention the fact that my closet is STILL clean and organized (woo hoo!). I forget to give myself credit for starting two new writing projects and posting weekly on my blog, even when life got crazy or I had no idea what to write. Also, when I didn’t keep up with my writing goals, it was because I was prioritizing my family or connecting with a friend, which simply means I am doing what matters most… which is also one of my goals for this year! 

And it’s true, our marriage is hardly Instagram-worthy (is there really such a thing?), but Jeff and I have gone on a few breakfast dates, which seems to be working better for us right now. He also mentioned several deep conversations we’ve shared over the past month or two, and we both agreed we feel much more connected. It’s hard to measure that kind of progress, but it is progress nonetheless, and it shouldn’t be discounted.

After taking assessment, I realized… I may not be quite as stuck as I thought I was! My progress is just slow and spread out, not clumped all together in a way I can see it and feel accomplished. Instead of actually being stuck, maybe I just feel stuck. There’s a big difference!

So, my plan is just to keep working the plan. Keep praying first, doing what matters most, and reminding myself that less is better. Keep taking tiny steps in the right direction and trusting they will eventually lead me where God wants me to go. 

Keep fixing my eyes on Jesus and forgiving myself when I fail, which is often. And keep offering myself as “a living sacrifice,” allowing God to renew my mind and change how I think— even about myself and my progress (see Romans 12:1-2).

Friend, where are you stuck right now? Perhaps these tips can help you see yourself and your situation from God’s perspective and enable you to move forward. Let me encourage you to trust the small steps, even when it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere fast. In the words of the tortoise, “Slow and steady wins the race!”

“God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete…” (Philippians 1:6, CEV)

If this helps you or if you have other tips for getting unstuck, I’d love to hear them!

Moving Forward

Have you ever felt like your world has suddenly stopped and you’re not sure how to move forward?

It’s a bit overwhelming.

My senior year of college, I went through a difficult break-up (I’m talking about a give-back-the-ring kind of break up). I haven’t thought about it in a long time, but back then it pretty much rocked my world. Not only did I have to navigate the logistics of calling off a wedding, as well as all the feelings that come with the end of a serious relationship, but I also found myself suddenly needing to rethink all my future plans. 

I felt like I was drowning- it was hard for me to focus on anything else.

This was a problem, because life continued all around me. My professors didn’t cancel class just because I was going through a break-up. My broken heart did not excuse me from writing papers and taking tests.  I was still expected to show up, to go to work, to fulfill my obligations. 

Life went on, and I was supposed to go on with it, whether I knew how or not.

So, I woke up the next morning, climbed out of bed, and just did the next thing. I didn’t always do it well, and I cried a lot in between, but I did it. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward. 

Step by step.

Over time, moving foward became a little bit easier. I was able to reflect on that relationship and learn from it. I was able to take responsibility for my part in things, and identify ways I needed to grow. I knew what I was looking for and what I needed to avoid. And all the while, I kept moving forward in the other areas of my life as well.

It took a long time before I was able to open myself up to love again. I wanted to, but I was afraid. I was scared of messing things up, of losing a friendship, of losing myself. It was hard, and it was scary. I wasn’t sure how to move forward.

I am so grateful for friends who walked that journey with me. They were so patient with me when I wasn’t sure what I wanted. They encouraged me to take risks and to take my time. They listened as I processed my ping-ponging emotions and spoke wisdom to my wary heart. 

Above all, they loved me well and continually pointed me to Jesus. 

They helped me move forward.

Moving forward didn’t mean I forgot, nor did it mean I didn’t care. It was simply a necessary part of life, so I did it. I didn’t really have a plan; I just figured out my next steps as I went. 

Many of you know this feeling well. Perhaps you have lost a spouse, or parent, or even a child. Maybe you’ve had to let go of a marriage or a dream. Whatever the case, you know what it feels like to hardly be able to breathe, and yet somehow have to find a way to continue moving forward. 

One tiny step at a time.

The past few months, and the last week in particular, have made it difficult for many of us to know how to move forward. 

We don’t want to move on too quickly. 

We don’t want to be insensitive to others.

We don’t want to act like nothing ever happened.

We don’t want to say the wrong thing or not say the right thing.

We want to make a difference, but we’re not sure how.

We find ourselves paralyzed, not sure when or how to move forward.

And yet, life continues on around us. Family and children and work await our attention. For just a little while, the world seemed to hold its breath, but at some point it needs to exhale and start breathing again.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to move forward. 

You don’t have to forget, and it doesn’t mean you didn’t really care. Your emotions may still be all over the place, or you may be confused about what to do next. It’s okay- in the words of Elisabeth Elliot, “Just do the next thing.” 

The “next thing” looks different for everyone. Some of you may be called to change a diaper while others are called to change the world. 

Whatever you do, do it in love, and it will be a step forward.

The morning after my college break up, I grabbed my Bible from my nightstand. I had been reading through the Psalms, and my Psalm for that day was Psalm 30, which was so timely. This verse in particular instilled in me the strength and hope I needed to move forward:

“Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” -Psalm 30:5

Joy comes in the morning!

I don’t know about you, but it’s time for me to start moving forward.

I don’t have all the answers, or even a well-thought out plan, but that’s okay. I just need to take a step, and I’ll figure the rest out as I go.