Word of the Week

Don't Forget Your Life Has Choices: 3 Practices to Take On When You Feel Stuck

Do you believe your life has choices?

A couple of weeks ago, a girlfriend of mine reminded me of a fun trip we took together over 10 years ago.

We were in our carefree 20s and living the dream of cheap motels, eating crackers for lunch and save our money for proper dinners with good bottle of wine and buying a train ticket the next day to somewhere fabulous.

It was a privilege to be able to travel of course, but a gift to ourselves and our friendship that we both worked hard to make happen.

Over text, we reminisced about our ease of being together on that trip and all the experiences we shared and then she said we should go back.

"Of course!" I replied. "When do you want to go?"

"Maybe for our 60th birthdays?" she offered.

"60th? Really. That seems so depressing! We're not going to travel again till we're 60?"

"Ok, maybe our 50th, then? Maybe our kids will be well situated by then."

(I'm still in my 30s, you know. Deep sigh).

Of course, I get it. We're not in our 20s anymore. Our lives are filled with more bills, kids, family obligations and of course work.

I've come to believe in the wisdom of "Your life doesn't really change when you get married. It changes when you have kids."  (Or I might add it also changes when you add in major responsibilities).

For it's true in this season of my life, I can't do what I want to do when I want to do it. Any trip out-of-town (or even just a night out past bedtime) is a well-organized and executed planning process. All of this on top of the financial demands of life as a parent when another human being is dependent on you. So, I get it. Life is full, for my friend. And for me too even as much as you love your life at home.

BUT, here is something I know for sure no matter what stage of life you're in.

We all do whatever we want to do.

We all can make anything we really to do want to do a priority.

Even if we have to save our money a dollar bill at time . . .

Even if we only have 5 minutes to give . . .

Even if our we plan adventures on a low budget . . .

None of us need to wait 10 years or 20 years to really live our lives (because who says any of us have 10 or 20 years to live?).

For every day, we get to say with our time, our money and our expressions of care what is important to us. And of course, when we're in a busy or stressful season of life, it's true, we might have fewer choices. But we still have choices.

We have the choice to be intentional about how we care for people (if we want to).

We have the choice to bring about good in the world with our money (if we want to).

We have the choice to care for our body (if we want to).

We have the choice to show up the moments that count for our children, our friends, our family (if we want to).

We have the choice.

I believe in our go, go, go, overstimulated, you better answer that email before tomorrow, knowing each other by our Facebook statuses alone, has taken from us the gift of intentional choice making.

As much as the texts of Advent, invite us right now to "stay woke" . . .

With our cell phones constantly in hand, we’re awake to everything. So, we're not really awake to anything at all. 

We've forgotten that we're co-creators in our own life stories. And our choices matter. Our daily choices and apps we most visit on our phone tell a lot about what matters the most to us.

Instead could we make more intentional choices?

Choices like: could we make person relationships a priority?  Instead of only text-based ones.

Choices like: could we give ourselves pockets of time for rest and reflection in silence? Instead of being thrown about based on ebbs and flows of today's news cycle.

Choices like: could we teach our children how to say yes and no to activities with care?  Instead of approving of an after school schedule based on what all the other kids do.

Choices like: could we manage our money carefully so we can give to others who need it more than we do? Instead of simply nursing our retirement accounts.

Choices like: could we invest in community-building in centers like our churches as essential parts of our week? Instead of attending when we don't have a better offer.

Intentional choices, my friends.

Our intentionality is our spirituality.

Oh I know the ease of the "I can't" crutch, playing the victim card in your own story.

But I want to say again, even in the worst case scenarios seasons-- you and I have choices of how we live.

We have the choice to put relationships over our own achievements. We have the choice to give back. We have the choice to rest in place.

Or as a friend of mine recently tweeted, "Stuck is a choice."

If you find yourself stuck and can't seem to get out of a life pattern, might I offer three suggestions?

  1. Find a friend to talk to about where you are. Often we think we don't have support around us, but we do. Trusted peers can help us find our way through the hards bumps of life. Just talk to someone about how you feel.
  2. Make a commitment this week to do something that you normally avoid. I don't care if it is as simple as taking out the trash before someone asks you. Do it. Discipline breeds discipline.
  3. Get outside. Often times when we're stuck and deep in the mess, we say indoors. But the popular wisdom of fresh air cures many ills is so true. Breath deeply. Take a wake. Move.