Floundering

What’s the most terrifying thing for someone who speaks and writes about living on purpose? Being lost.

Photo by Karol Stefański on Unsplash

For much of the last four years, I’ve felt lost.

  • First came the Covid lockdown and the loss of my speaking opportunities.
  • Then we moved—while everything was mostly locked down—to a new church, a new community.
  • The polarization that infected the Christian world had a deep effect on my blogging, with fear of repercussions enough to dry up my desire to write.
  • The pandemic also lead to a loss of my writing work for universities and nonprofits.
  • And then came my brother Bobby’s sudden death, my husband’s pulmonary embolism that almost killed him, and my brother Carl’s life being consumed by Alzheimer’s disease.
  • To add insult to injury, I transitioned onto Social Security, bringing on a slew of conflicting feelings—relief, washed up, secure, useless, retired, old. 

I’ve struggled to find my footing. Floundered, really. Grief and gloom were too-constant friends.

I’m not on solid ground yet, but I have been discovering a few ways to begin to move forward. I don’t know where you are in your life today, but perhaps these steps will be of use to you, wherever you find yourself.

  1. Reach out—Request prayer from trusted spiritual friends who know your heart. Ask them to pray, to speak into your life, to remind you of who you are created to be. When I became vulnerable enough to admit how I was struggling, my confidants provided the rest of these insights.
  2. Rest—Slow down and listen. Don’t frantically look for something new, some distraction or opportunity. My friends encouraged me to quiet myself and to wait for God to show me what came next. One way I’m purposefully doing this is by visiting Longwood Gardens (a beautiful arboretum about an hour from me ) every few weeks. I wander, I pray, I sit, I listen. As my favorite version of Psalm 46:10 puts it: “Shut up and let God talk.”
  3. Revisit your purpose and mission, and act on what currently brings joy and refreshment. A particularly wise friend suggested I reread my own mission statement and pick out any portion of it that sparked enjoyment or excitement that I felt I could fulfill at this time. For me that was to be an encourager of others through sending cards or texts. This action didn’t exhaust or overwhelm me. It actually brought joy.
  4. Rejoice in the fruit. Remind yourself of how your presence has made a difference in the lives of your family, friends and coworkers. I was encouraged to revisit the positive ways God had used my gifts in the past, to review the comments others had made on the impact of my speaking, my books and blog, my teaching, my cards and texts. In seeing where God had used me in the past, perhaps I would begun to feel an excitement to pursue one or more of these avenues of ministry again. God must have laughed a bit as he sent several people my way via different means within a few short weeks to tell me how my blog (which I haven’t posted on in more than a year) had impacted their faith. (I guess the result is that I am, with much trepidation, here to post at least once again.)
  5. Reorient—Explore new avenues of ministry and joy. As my life work scaled back to zero, I looked for something that would help me feel more stable. Some, like my once-a-week shift at a fair trade store and the Zoom Bible discussion groups I led, were a rousing success, bringing me joy and community. Others, like a volunteer ESL tutoring gig that turned into a teaching job, turned out to be a poor fit but leave me curious on how that passion can be used in other ways that don’t leave me frustrated. The venues for fulfilling my purpose have changed, but perhaps God is simply shifting me to new avenues.
Photo by Julie Marsh on Unsplash

I won’t say my steps are now sure
as I speed toward fulfilling my purpose,
but I am taking some faltering steps,
resting with God in a new way, and
trusting his direction for my future,
even when I cannot yet visualize it.

28 thoughts on “Floundering”

    • all too oft we enter this stage… turning to God when that’s what we least feel like doing.. yet that’s what we need… we have a “God Hole” and it’s a hole only He can fill… sit, listen, pray and the answers come, in His time, not ours. Thank you Carol for your vulnerability! Love Eileen

      Reply
      • We most certainly have a God hole, Eileen, that only he can fill. I usually do have trouble with the waiting part! Thanks for taking the time to bring me this encouragement!

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  1. Carol,
    After chatting with you recently, and realizing some of the reasons you stepped back from your blog, I am so happy you bravely posted this latest one. I’ve missed reading them!
    I know how difficult the last few years have been and believe your writing can make a difference both for you AND your readers. You have such a gift!
    Love, Debbie

    Reply
    • Debbie, our chat was so helpful! And it made me realize how much I need to do a better job of connecting with my extended family. Thank you for your encouragement.

      Reply
  2. Love this refocusing scenario! So man of us need this message after what we’ve been through the past several years. As many of my colleagues and referral base have retired or passed away; I’m actually getting more work than I can handle at times and need to pull away to refresh for the opposite reason, trying to maintain balance and make decisions about how much I can keep doing for how long while praying for other younger ones to get the training needed to help fill the gaps. Keep writing!

    Reply
  3. Love you. Friends will always be there to hold you up, strengthen your resolve, and unconditionally love you in good times, tough times, times known and times unknown. In Hebrew, the phrase is hazak, hazak, vneithazek. Strength, strength, so you may be strengthened.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing this!!!! I really needed to read this. Often times I feel lIke I am floundering from grief, loneliness, and not making a difference. I definitely will take your insight to move forward. Blessings!!!!

    Reply
    • Carole, life certainly has a way of throwing us for a loop! Thanks for taking the time to let me know it was helpful.

      Reply
  5. Thank you , Carol, for you vulnerability.
    I believe I have struggled in some of the same ways you have over the past four years. I’m still figuring it out, but my feet do feel a bit more steady.

    Reply
    • Debbie, you have dealt with difficult times with such bravery and even laughter.I’m thankful you continue to find your way and encourage the rest of us!

      Reply
  6. You certainly have been an uplifting, supportive and encouraging presence in my life in these past years as we’ve shared our love of writing and the challenges of being a self-employed entrepreneur. Our crepes and creativity conversations have been so meaningful to me.

    Reaching out, as you say, is so important just as it is also difficult—to admit we are feeling lost and confused in a culture that pushes self-reliance and independence is often an act of bravery.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with me.

    Reply
    • I sure miss the crepes, Kathleen, almost as much as I miss our regular chats! Thank you for your kind comments.

      Reply
  7. So good to see this blog. So sorry you have been floundering. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing all the distressing things that have been happening. It is A LOT! No wonder you have been floundering – anyone would. May God comfort and bless you as you continue to move forward and trust Him.

    Reply
  8. Yes we do flounder. Thanks be to God who always picks us up. Never imagined I’d be thanking Him for cancer but I do. I’ve found when I am weak that’s when I am strong. I’ve seen His amazing love in all those around me who loved, supported & lifted me in prayer.

    Reply
    • Deb, I’m sorry you’re dealing with cancer, but so thankful God is meeting you there! Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  9. What a good message, Carol. Transparent and real (of course – you couldn’t be less!), and also full of hope and practical steps, so like the teacher in you. I can relate. Been through some tough years recently, which includes much loss on many fronts (maybe pruning, as well) and feeling lost in it. Revisiting and reminding myself that God is always at work (even in apparent silence), and His work is always redemptive has also helped me look for His goodness, and find it, in daily moments. I know He sees ‘success’ so differently than we like to define it. May you continue to more forward as He leads.

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  10. Thank you Carol for being so open! I think many of us experience these feelings as we reach a new place in our lives – losing a parent, being needed less by our children and grandchildren! It is difficult finding that place where God wants us. Hearing and reading from others who are brave enough to open up is so very helpful! Thank you again! I appreciate your blog!

    Reply
    • Jan, I so appreciate your taking the time to comment! Yes, those new places can really through us for a loop

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  11. Carol, I have admired you from the first time we met. You are genuine, honest, and willing to help others succeed. Your vulnerability gave me the courage to continue seeking God when Covid closed down my ministry. Thank you for voicing what others feel like. God bless you as you continue to be used of God in new ways.

    Reply
    • Oh, Joan, I’m so happy to know I’ve been an encouragement to you as your ministry has changed. May God continue to use you. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

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