The Wrong Person: Sometimes the Source of All my Problems is Me

Fall in North Carolina is glorious. For nearly three months if I sat up tall in my chair and looked through the pane of glass that makes up one wall of my cube, and through the open door of the executive’s office across from me and out through his window, I could see the rolling ribbons of saffron and rust and candy apple red trees running over the hills below us. And then, suddenly, in what felt like one afternoon, all of those precious jewels of leaves gave up and fell, leaving behind skeleton trees with their lonely, brittle branches.

This past weekend I celebrated my 24th birthday. Or rather, I observed it. It didn’t feel like much of a celebration. This was the first birthday I haven’t looked forward to. The first one I’ve secretly wished wouldn’t come. I know that in the grand scheme of things I am still very young, but to me, this birthday, this day when I pause to note the passage of time, to acknowledge the days of my life slipping away, I felt disappointed and somewhat afraid. Disappointed that life isn’t what I hoped it would be. Afraid that it never will be.

I live a small life. A life I could step out of at any moment leaving very little behind me. It often feels like a life lived on a stationary bike where I peddle myself into a sweaty exhaustion without having actually gone anywhere. If my 18-year-old self saw me now, she would think I was a complete loser.

Several months ago, my mom sent me this book:

When I first started reading it, I found it so difficult to digest I had to put it down for several weeks. This book is written by a woman whose words speak to my brokenness and to my discontentment and offer another way. I see the beauty of her ideas, and the transformation God brought about in her life. She speaks about being thankful, something I blogged about myself in my last post several months ago. And yet, I often hate this woman. If I were to write her a letter, it would probably look something like this:

Dear Ann Voskamp, you write about seizing the gifts of everyday life in spite of the monotony with such beauty and power. And you have had your share of hardships, so I appreciate your struggle. But you live on a farm with the wonderful sweet earth under your feet and you cook your meals out of food your family has grown themselves. You have the miracle of six beautiful children you spend your days raising and teaching and loving. And yet you’ve managed to maintain your career as a writer. You have an incredibly successful book and a blog that thousands of people read and you do pieces for several major publishers. You also advocate for Compassion International which means you both help the poor and get to travel to amazingly beautiful exotic locations to do so. Dear Ann Voskamp, you live the literal exact life I dream for myself on a daily basis. This is the life you chose. What do you really have to be so discontent with?!

Perhaps, somehow, as incomprehensible as it is to me, this isn’t the life Ann dreamed of. Or perhaps her message speaks more to the ways we in our sinfulness make ourselves miserable no matter how ideal our situation is. The ways in which, truthfully, even when we have everything we could ever wish for, we can still dare to be discontented.

I love North Carolina. I love the beauty of our surroundings. I love our colorful little apartment. I love our church and the friends we have made. I feel so good about this place we are in. I don’t think this is the wrong place. I think perhaps I am the wrong person.

Many of my blogs have to do with being discontent, with searching for contentment and recognizing that I must learn to be content where I am and to see the gifts God has for me each day, but right now that doesn’t seem like it will ever be enough.  Because honestly, I want to be joyful where I am, but I don’t really want to be content where I am. Because I don’t want to stay here. And I’m afraid I will grow content in being purposeless. I don’t want to embrace a directionless life. I don’t want to turn 25 in a year still working a soulless job because I need the money, unable to get out of the rut.

I know the things that I love: words, reading and writing them, making people feel good about themselves, baking delicious things and giving them to people and that moment when they take a first bite and smile. Going to new countries and experiencing new cultures. Cuddling babies and the imaginations of small children.  Making my home lovely, and sharing it with my sweet husband.

These are all of the things I dream of, and to me, they don’t seem like such outrageous things to want. And yet, just this weekend my computer got a virus and died forever and one of the cars broke and needed hundreds of dollars of repairs. And these things feel like something heavy is pressing down on me, making it difficult for my lungs to take in enough precious oxygen, let alone give life to dreams. So I push the dreams aside. I become responsible. I do the things that must be done to make ends meet. And I wait and I pray that one day I will become the right person. Because until then, I think I will always be discontent, even if I suddenly got everything I ever wanted.

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10 comments

  1. I disagree…a bit. I don’t think you lead a little life, or that you are in fact the wrong person. I think you’re just right.
    I am thankful that you share your heart and that you recommend lovely, challenging, wrenching, dreaming, jumble-of-emotions books to me.
    I am thankful that you are my dream-filled friend who lived in a tower up a winding staircase.
    I am thankful that we can give each other swanky gifts. Because we’re besties.
    I am thankful that you get to live in NC and remind me of things that make my heart happy and miss its home there.
    I am thankful that you love cottages, and I think of you when I pass the one on University.
    I am thankful that you open up your chest wide and share hurt and disappointment and love and sadness and joy. Because you are lucky enough to feel all these different things.
    I am thankful that you have short reddish hair.
    I am thankful for the clicky sound of keyboards.
    I am thankful that it’s the end of the work day and we both get to go home to our loves and be wives and do things we love (although we don’t really get paid to do that).
    So, I love you.
    That’s it.

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  2. Lily, you are definitely a gifted writer. You somehow seem to catch so many feelings that I and many people I know have been feeling, and phrase them in a eloquent, powerful way, while still being hopeful. I truly have been blessed by your friendship here in North Carolina, and I can’t wait to see what more God does with you!

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    1. Caitlan, thank you. Your friendship has been a blessing to me too! Thank you for taking the time to read my words and for your encouragement. Part of what allows me to stay hopeful is the way friends and family and sometimes even just distant acquaintances come around me and and affirm that I’m not alone. Thanks for being one of those friends. 🙂

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  3. oh Lil, i am sitting here with tears practically streaming down my face because all i can say is that i know exactly how you feel. i can’t rememeber if you guys are in NC becasue Jonathan is in seminary but well over 7 years I felt the same way, and I can’t say that I still don’t sometime have those thoughts like my life doesn’t have a purpose or I am not where i should be but for sure I felt disconnected at times when we first moved to WA state and not sure I belonged or what it was that I should be doing. It was hard being the only person working when there were other things that I wanted to be doing. All i can say is that I fell so much in love with where we were in WA, the friends we made, the church home we found that I think that maybe my discontentment not is a longing for that again. It just wasn’t financially (a word that i am terribly irriated with) possible for us to live there and raise a family. we have found a church home here and are happy with where we are but oh how i sometimes long for WA. which i find hilarious in light of all we went through, car trouble included. You and Jonathan will be in my prayers and thoughts and know that you are not alone. i love you bunches and know that God has BIG plans for you my sweet Lily.

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    1. Jenn, thanks for your words. My mom has actually been suggesting to me that I talk to you, remembering that you and Michael have been through a lot of similar struggles, particularly at the beginning of your marriage. I’d love to talk to you more about all of this. We’re not in NC for seminary, we actually just moved here because we didn’t want to stay in Illinois and for a lot of little reasons, Raleigh felt like the right place. I think it was the right decision and we really love it here. But being in a “better” place for us hasn’t just opened our eyes to our destiny or anything. We both still struggle so much to know what we ought to do or what to pursue and how to do something worthwhile with our lives. And for me, it always feel like I have such a limited time to figure that out, and to do something I care about before we start a family and I am more or less devoted to raising my kids. I look forward to that, but I don’t see that as when my life really begins and I want to do something I love NOW. It’s particularly frustrating if I allow myself to compare to other people because I have many friends and acquaintances who have great jobs in fields they like, who live in big cities or other countries or who work as missionaries or for ministries that send them all over the world. It makes me feel like it isn’t true that I just have to wait on God’s timing and direction. It makes me feel like I really missed him somewhere. And every day that goes by takes me another step away from something life-giving and exciting and purposeful. I don’t know…
      Anyway, thank you so mmuch for your encouragement. I’d love to chat with you more soon. Love you.

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  4. I am so glad you’re back, blog friend! I was just thinking about you the other day! OMG, I totally can relate to EVERYTHING you are saying. {except that I liked her book at first, until I tried writing down 1000 things and the majority of them were my morning coffee, and I got mad b/c I wasn’t beautifully transformed like she was by writing down the things I’m thankful for, and so then I thought I probably just need a camera now to take pictures like she does but seriously… I just got madder and madder with her and her beautiful pictures and blog and her travels}
    I am also disappointed with how life is not turning out the way I want and how a perfect job opportunity fell through and how I just want to travel the world and not work and on and on and on. So I stumbled upon this book “Plan B- what to do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought he would by Pete Wilson, and it is soooooo good and has really encouraged me. {and its a lot easier to read then Voskamp}
    Thanks for being so honest because it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this struggle. praying for you!

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    1. Why thank you! I am glad to be back. It was a little crazy in there for a while. I loved your comment about getting angry at your lack of transformation from writing down your coffee every morning…I also tried writing the list. I got to 5. Was not utterly transformed either. Thank you for the book suggestion! I will look into it! I am thankful that out of all the blogs I could have stumbled on on the whole wide internet I found yours. Coincidence…I think not! Thanks for being on this journey with me.

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