“Are You With Me?” How to Manage Loneliness

The pain in her voice is so clear I can see it, even through the phone. “Are you with me?” She asks, seeking affirmation and assurance. It is a dark season filled with rejection and loss. All the usual sources of support have been withdrawn. Now she turns to me, her only hope.

“Are you with me?”

It’s a question I’ve asked so many times before. So often I have sought compassion and understanding from those I considered friends. Being “with me” is both physical and psychological. When I ask this question, I’m really asking “do you understand where I’m coming from, how I feel, what I’m thinking?” Understanding is everything! For someone to literally and figuratively stand under the situation with me is to share my pain and simultaneously lessen the sting.

Being “with me,” physically, means going through this experience at the same time that I am—by my side. You will know what I feel, know the difficulty I’m in because you’re in it too. Going through it with another person somehow makes it bearable. At least I’m not alone because you’re “with me.” Sharing one another’s burden, listening with compassion and understanding, it’s like gold to a poor man or breath to the dying!

Yet, so often, you are not “with me.” Often I feel disconnected because people—for various reasons—are not able. They don’t share my past, my mind, nor my emotions; they merely observe from afar. So, what then? Must I walk alone?

No.

“The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The reality is, God is the only one who actually can say this with assurance. He is the only one who actually does know my past, my present and my future. He is the only one who has already walked through my hardest night. He’s traversed the valley of the shadow of death so I don’t have to fear. He actually is “with me” all the time because He’s omnipresent and because He made me and knows me better than any person can. I can call out to Him in my mind or from my mouth, and He will hear me either way. What comfort!

But, perhaps you are thinking, “yeah, but even if I believe He’s real, He’s not a physical presence. I still need the warmth of human touch.

“Are you with me?” Her voice drifts through the phone line and my heart throbs with her pain.

“Yes.” I understand what she is going through because I’ve been through it too. As I offer her comfort I recognize the comfort that I have also received. The knowledge of His presence strengthens me. I’m able to walk through my own difficulties and extend my hand to her as well. He demonstrates His presence through the presence of people. If we trust Him and wait, He will always send us a physical manifestation of Himself.

So, together, we move forward onto this dark path, but we go with courage–not because it’s easy–but because, in every sense of the word, He’s with us.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Life is hard sometimes, but we don’t have to walk this road alone. Help is available!

If this topic hit home for you, see also Michele Cushatt’s “A Bad Rule That Needs to Be Broken”

What You Might be Missing

My youngest daughter is a free spirit.  She’ll turn anything—even work—into play! It drives me crazy! When I ask her to do the dishes, she fills the sink with bubbles and makes “shakes” in the dirty cups or spreads the suds around—bubbles on her face, on her arm, on her sister. “Look!” She’ll exclaim with every new creation. I’m not impressed.

It was worse when she was younger.  I would be brushing her hair when suddenly I couldn’t find the hair tie or comb! Frantically, I’d scour the seat or the hair box with one hand, still holding a tuft of hair with the other– “where is it?!”  I’d yell. 

Oh, here. The sought-after accessory would be carefully wound around the brush my child was holding as she mumbled lines from some scene in her head. Oblivious to my agenda–in the span of 10 seconds–she had gotten lost in her imagination. The brush, comb and hair tie, now, key players in her kitchen table production! Ugh.

But, if I say I value creativity, why don’t I appreciate my daughter’s creative play? Because the messiness and unpredictability don’t fit into my daily grind.  I have appointments, reports, errands, and bills—I don’t have time for play!

Yet, in the rush to quantify success, perhaps we have discounted the value of creativity which doesn’t manifest in neat and tidy outputs. Creativity is play and work.  It is messy and disorderly. It disrupts norms and laughs at standards. Yet, without creativity, we would have a world full of neat and orderly sameness, uninspired—even if efficient—activity.

In her book Cultivate: A Grace-FIlled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life, Lara Casey describes her daughter slowing down their daily walk to pick up twigs and leaves, “trying to get me to see the beauty and wonder that she was seeing,” but this detour was not on the itinerary. Taking the scenic route delays progress to the destination; but, Casey points out that “God is in the small and unexpected nooks and crannies, if we are willing to unrush our pace to pay attention to what’s growing” (158).

“Harvest work is intentional” she says. It’s “noticing the fruit that God has grown in your life and doing something with it. But if you are rushed, or are constantly distracted by what isn’t growing, you’ll miss it.” (162)

So, what am I missing?

There’s plenty that isn’t growing when I sit down to write, but there’s also fruit that God has grown in my life that has the potential to be food for thought—food that brings life. Too often, instead, I rush past my writing desk–too busy, too distracted or too defeated to consider the potential that’s there. Someone once said that the greatest novels lie dead in the grave because those who would have written them never took time to explore their creative gifts. This can’t be how my story ends. Rather than confine myself to the orderly path, I must take a lesson from my daughter and reconsider creativity.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.

So, what about you? What ideas might you explore if you slowed your pace and paid attention?  What creative venture might you try that you’ve put off because you don’t “have time”? It’s not just the destination that matters. There are lessons and growth that happen along the way.

Let’s not miss them!

Ready to explore creativity? Look out for more on this subject in future posts. In the meantime, get inspired by these creativity sites:

The Creativity Post— a platform dedicated to sharing the very best content on creativity; facilitates dialogue between various disciplines of inquiry 

Creative Thinking— unveils the secrets of creative genius and brings life-changing creative techniques within everyone’s reach

Creativity Portal— host to a wide library of original content and features including prompts, articles, and interviews

Cover photo courtesy of Derek Thomson on Unsplash

Why You Haven’t Found Your Purpose

Do you know your purpose? Some people spend their whole lives searching for their destiny, grasping for meaning in life quests and career aspirations. But what happens when your search is in vain? When your quest turns up empty? The assumption is that purpose is something to be obtained, but maybe we have it wrong. Perhaps we’re chasing an elusive dream because we shouldn’t be looking for, or even striving towards it–we should be living it.

Living on purpose.

Our failure to find our purpose may be that we’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, because we have to create it! This requires a shift in our thinking. We have to look within–to our intentions, values and beliefs–and let these guide our actions.

This means shifting our concept of purpose from something we get, to something we create. Then, the power is in our hands to achieve it! By living on purpose, we open up possibilities. It is no longer something that exists outside of us, something designed–or imposed by–others; it is something that we do that matters to us and benefits others. It is working to accomplish something meaningful.

Living on purpose looks like:

  • a writer sending encouraging letters to imprisoned persons rather than publishing companies
  • a musician playing his instrument in the park for the homeless, rather than patrons at a trendy restaurant
  • an artist sharing samples of her work with hospital and nursing home patients, rather than exclusive art galleries.

The options are endless! When we live on purpose, any of our experiences –even our failures–can be re-created, into something beautiful and new .  It’s about making choices that reflect our best and that make us (and others) better. Whatever our work is, if we do it with intention, we will accomplish the goals we set.

Then we can set new ones. Happy Monday!

Cover photo courtesy of Linda Rose on Unsplash