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When We Wonder, “What’s Next?”

I feel like a cook tasked with making a stew of two dozen ingredients from a recipe I’ve never seen, and I’m a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a new task? Do you ever wonder where to start? Which direction to go? Where to put your energy first?

“What’s next?” may be a question we ask repeatedly during our grief journey. We probably ask it after the funeral. We may ask it later, after our grief has changed us,  but we’re still recreating ourselves. Or we may ask it after we’re finished sorting through the belongings of our loved one.

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Where to next? Don’t we wish our pathway was laid out as clearly as this trail?

After selling my parents’ home three weeks ago and saying my goodbyes, I was enthused by the idea of paring down belongings at my own home and devoting more time to writing projects. But I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’m bogged down. So much to do. So little me.

I should feel excited. I want to be excited. Instead, I am trying to peel carrots, sear chunks of beef, unwrap bouillon cubes and answer a ringing phone. I’m trying to make something deliciously wonderful out of a lot of moving parts. Where do I start?

I’m going to unpack four suggestions here. What might yours be?

Focus Priorities

What’s important to us? What is the main thing? Those can be a tough questions when so much seems equally important. But what can I do – what can you do – that no one else can do? That uniqueness is important. What can you give that no one else can give?

One of my priorities is sharing my grief journey with you from the perspective that God engineered in my life. We’re all unique. And though our journeys share similarities, they, too are unique in their details. I’m going to continue to blog, often from the perspective of connecting with our loved ones – and ultimately to God – through the belongings left behind. The feelings and stories they elicit can teach us so much. I’ve got a boat load of stories (and stuff) from my eight years in that house, and I’m still finding my way through life without my folks, too. I’m not done sharing.

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I filled bins of keepsakes that include family letters and sentimental objects in our storage shed. They are categorized and labeled.

I’m excited that we’re all sharing this road together and leaning on each other for inspiration and encouragement. That’s not ending. In fact, I feel my contributions are still in infancy.

Feed the Goal

I get busy on the little stuff sometimes because it is the easy stuff, or on stuff that squeaks the loudest. At this time, I need to regroup to direct most of my energy to primary goals. That means I need to edit out that little voice that demands perfection – that I must be everything to everyone.

Earlier this year, I took on a new freelance job, writing for The Memphis Daily News. They wanted me to do three stories a week, but I already knew that was more side work than I wanted. I needed time to write about my own experiences. So they accepted me at a story a week.

Other responsibilities crowded in recently – other writing assignments and an early June deadline for two national writing contests – and I asked to be taken off the newspaper schedule for a few weeks. I’ve got my sights on my ultimate goal. If I don’t feed my goal, no one else will.

About the same time this month, I accepted the position of assistant editor at The Connect Magazine, where I am a senior writer. I love writing for this publication, and it offers me the possibility of contributing essays to share my grief story and other experiences. It will help me toward my goal. And the editing fell after the contest deadlines. Perfect timing.

The Next Thing

Sometimes, even though we’ve got our priorities in mind, we don’t know which way to turn, which direction to select. Do we move? Do we sell? Do we take that job and not the other one?

I asked a pastor one time about this, and I’ve heard others speak to this quandary. The answer is do the next right thing. What a frustrating answer for someone seeking specific, no-fail direction, huh? But I get it. We’ve got to treat life like a GPS without the clock part that tells you when you will arrive at your destination. It tells you the next turn, not the series of turns.

This is the way God usually operates with us. He gives us a flashlight, not a huge, illuminating beam that shows us where we will end up after several turns. That requires trust in his guidance and in his desire to give us what will ultimately be best for us.

Willingness to Adjust

As we launch into the next thing, we should be willing to adjust. If we select a path and find an obstacle, we must decide to go over it, around it, or to turn back. We learn perhaps that wasn’t the way, and we change directions.

If I approach “What’s next?” with this attitude, I’m more willing to take chances and not be frozen by an attitude of perfection. If I don’t get it right, I know my path is in God’s hands and that choice will end up part of the delicious stew I’m cooking.

Now, please pass the ketchup.

What’s next in your life? I want to know about your dreams. They may be related to your grief journey. Maybe you’ve discovered a veiled talent or taken up a hobby in the desert of your loss. What new thing is pulling you through this season?

 

Copyright © 2018 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com

 

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sheryl M. Baker #

    Great advise Toni. My path has certainly taken a different road these past couple of years. Learning to set my writing dreams aside was difficult for me to accept, but I see now how God was directing my life to be available to serve my husband before and after his transplant. I truly believe I will one day return to writing, but for right now, I am satified with serving God in the way He has led me.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 23, 2018
    • Yes, I don’t know all your story on this but I know you are dedicated and giving and gifted. I believe you will return when the time is right and God opens the path. It’s good to be content in whatever state we are in. I believe that means at peace. What a great place to be.

      Like

      May 23, 2018

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