Every two years, I get the itch to turn my life upside down.

This is that time.

So this feeling, it’s familiar to me – and those that love me, bless their long-suffering hearts – now. I kick against my life, wondering if it’s enough, if I’m enough, if God is enough, if our life looks the way God would desire for us.

I wonder if, at the end of my life, when I’m retelling my old stories, will they be good stories to tell, good stories to hear?  I am yearning for more than a mortgage I’ll never pay off and faithful church attendance and tinies that grow up to behave well in public and pay their taxes. I’m pacing around my house liked a caged thing, it all feels like too-too much, and it doesn’t help that I just finished “7: A Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker, no, that woman has not helped me one bit. I am spending the week with Tsh of Simple Mom fame’s “Organized Simplicity: Clutter Free Intentional Living” and I’ve filled three pages of lined notebook paper with my goals and hopes and intentions.

I want to paint the walls white and have a yard sale, I want to move, I want to burn something down and start over. I want a farm, I want to make soap. I want to start a commune, an intentional living community and I want a quiet house. I want to downsize and I’m stalking rural fixer-uppers in Washington State and the BC interior. I want a backyard garden and a tire swing, tinies with dirty hands at the end of the day. I want to homeschool forever and I want to send them all to boarding school so I can write in peace for one blessed moment. I want a baby and I want to adopt and I am so done having babies. I want to downsize and I want to organise, I want to swear off buying anything for a year, I want to go paperless, buy local, learn how to make a quilt. I want to pay off this damn school debt and then give away half our money. I’m sick of cleaning this house. I want to write my book and I have the wickedest case of writer’s block and I want every girl that needs Mercy to find the giver of mercy, and I don’t want to miss a minute of my life. I want to abandon my online life, delete Facebook, but first I want you to see this cute picture I took of my baby standing up, and like the proverbial tree in the forest, will you know I exist if I don’t tweet about things I”m reading and thinking and doing? I want to lose weight – yes, me, the “you’re beautiful, no matter what” girl needs to lose some serious weight – I need to practice some radical self-care, to take a walk, to eat vegetables instead of popcorn for supper, I need to slow down. I need my husband and it’s now 10 days until he’s back with our family. I feel like I want to take a month off together after that, a month just to deep clean my house, figure out our budget, our new dreams, our lives. Who are we again? And why are we here?

This feeling arrives like clockwork by now and, if I were my family or my friends, I would roll my eyes at my own angsty self. But it’s real and true: I get this sense of holy discontent, and then usually we do something about it. We move. We change jobs. We start something, we end something. It helps. We are very practised at upending our lives and living at sixes-and-sevens while you rebuild can be a bit addictive.

But this time I’m learning to lean into it. This time, I know, I sense, that I need to sit here, in the tension of what I think I want and see if it is truly what God wants for us. Instead of feeling the discomfort and just doing something different, I want to feel the discomfort and explore it, its roots, where it comes from.  And then wait on God to move, to speak, to breathe. 

And then, God-willing, I’ll be faithful to God’s heartbeat for the world – and for us.

This is difficult.

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In which these are the tired thirties
In which I [just write about] want to be fearless about aging
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  •  I could plaster your lists of wants/needs to my own forehead!  They so speak of my heart and my desires!!  It’s like you jumped in my head and found them all and wrote them in one place!

  • I love, love, love this post. How is the human heart capable of wanting so many opposing things with equal intensity all at the same time? Must be that we were made for something bigger than all these little pieces, that we belong to a beauty that is so great that we can never really get at it totally. It’s frustrating and wonderful all at once.

  • Okay, admit it. You’ve been reading my journal, haven’t you!? Seriously, right down to the husband-isn’t-with-the-family-right-now part. The homeschool vs. boarding school debate. The adoption question. The school debt bother. The re-dreaming. The doing it every two years or so. The realization that I need to just sit freaking still just this once and try to discern God in it all. Even the Jen Hatmaker connection. Wow.

    All this to say, I feel ya, sista. And way down south, our family is going through the same thing.

    • Ha! Nope, not peeking over your shoulder but isn’t that the fun of being honest? you find out – like I now have – that you’re/I’m not completely crazy or alone. Yes.

  • you have read my mind & heart. January passes and then a quarterly eval comes pounding if I’m doing what I know my heart wants to do.  I want to go out & fight for change.  Send my kids to public school and dream about homeschooling & sharp crayons.  Wrap up my littles & snuggle close and send them to bed early to unwind.  The paradox of life it seems.  A heart tugging between the here & not yet & what could be.  Oh a dreamers soul can be a bit much at times.  blessings to you Sarah!

    • I need to be analysed. Maybe this is one of the MB things in me? Is it normal?

  • Sometimes for me the stuff I’m changing is just the external stuff. Like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I like going for the easy stuff first–the urgent. I pray that God will lead you to the solid place where you need to be. Heaven knows a white coat of paint is just going to get scratched up and dirty after a few years anyway! 

    • True practicality! You and Brian would get along well.

  • Oh, yes.  I am fifty and I feel this way!  I want to stay in China and continue to live at this fast paced, exciting life.  I want to go back to the US and live on one of those available rural place and weave and knit and spin.  I want to play with our special needs foster son and oh my word, should a woman starting menopause have a special needs toddler in her life?  I want to be in touch with people on Facebook but if I see one more status or post posing a social justice, I think I will go mad!  
    I get it, Sarah!

    • What? you mean posting viral videos isn’t activism?? I’m shocked, SHOCKED. 😉

  • Marijoy

    Yes, yes. Be still. And. Know. Thanksgiving for God in the midst.

  • Madelyn

    Nothing wrong with popcorn for supper, as I see it….  :-] 

    • My kinda gal, Madelyn….

    • jean_e_lane

       or breakfast, which is what I used to do.  Sometimes still do 🙂

  • Oh I so feel that tension! I get in those angsty moods….I love the idea of just leaning into it though! So hard to do.

  • Soooo good! And I sooo relate. That angst can be God-given, but it’s hard to not plow forward on our own. We need such grace to give God the space to guide our scheming. 

    • I love that  – “guide our scheming.” So good.

  • Laura

    I see below I’m not the only one, but WOW you’ve spoken a lot of the things wearing on me today.  March 19th, eh?  It just so happens that my husband is also in his last term at seminary (Regent College, as a matter of fact, just down the road here) and that’s the day when the majority of his final assignments are due.   Lord Jesus, is it March 19th yet?  Anyway, I’ve appreciated your posts lately about “seminary widowhood” (though you’re kind and tactful enough not to use the term) because I’m right there with you!  When it wears on me, I pray for you.  I only have one tiny, so I can only imagine your exhaustion.  Ending one thing is a confusing place to be.  It’s so hard to make plans for what’s next… or even dreams.  I hope you have lots of wisdom for the journey!

    • Laura! How did I not know this? Brian is at Regent, too! He’s finishing up this year – after 6 years, yes, SIX – to finish. We’re in the home stretch, darling!  Also, we’ll have to try to say hello at graduation in April! I’ll be the one in The Ugly Cry mode. 😉

      •  Oh, yes let’s definitely say hi to each other!  I didn’t realize you were a Regent family too!  Six years isn’t so bad, by the way.  I think it might actually be more humane to spread it out (even if it does feel unfinished for a long time).

        Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  • Yes! This is exactly where I’m at right now, except I need to amp up the trusting God part. Do you think this feeling has anything to do with spring? (And do you have a strong desire to get a dumpster dropped off in your driveway so you can fill it up? That’s my fantasy—although not a very environmentally-responsible one.)

    These feelings and questions especially resonate:

    “I kick against my life, wondering if it’s enough, if I’m enough, if God is enough…”

    “Who are we again? And why are we here?”

    My questions this week have been “What do I want?” and “What am I afraid of?” As I mentioned, it seems like the trusting God piece needs to be in place before I can answer my questions with any truth and honesty…

    • I was wondering about that with the spring/winter thing too. We’re in that dreary part of the world here and we can go weeks and weeks without sun. I always think I’m too spiritual and mature to be bothered by the weather but every year I’m all, NOPE I NEED SUN. So yes, maybe a connection? But glad we’re in this together, Kristin.

  • never has anyone written so wonderfully exactly the tension I feel….healthy tension right? this desire to change, to transform, to be re-born, to start the game over. For a season I actually had to stop reading books like Seven (which I LOVED) and readings blogs on simplicity, etc because I was so overwhelmed with where I wanted to be and yet not living it….to go from desire to action is scary and hard and with a husband and two little ones-who maybe are just fine with the life we have-well, it is just plain hard! Thank you thank you for writing this and for the reminder that we create this life that God has given us-intentionaly. 

    • I think – I hope? – it is a healthy tension. You’re right; we need wisdom as we walk it out.

  • This is exactly where I’m at right now.  I’ve noticed it seems to happen in late winter, this uneasiness and restlessness.  It helps me to recognize that, because winter ends and then beautiful spring comes.  Thank you for the reminder to lean into it.  


    • Yes, the seasons thing might be huge in this for me…good point. Thanks.

  • Oh, I love this post! I read “Organized Simplicity” too, and loved it, and long to go crazy and change a million things, just as you described. So now I’m feeling like I’ll need to chew on your closing thoughts – Leaning into this, hmm?? Sounds new and interesting. I will ponder that for a while.

  • Gracious. Did you crawl into my brain? Minus the husband and kids references, that’s been my exact stream of consciousness.

  • Kathy Escobar’s book “Down we go” is making me feel the same crazy.  Like I have an urge to find the nearest alcoholics anonymous meeting.  But I think it is a beautiful thing and reflects our perpetual longing to be where (what?  when?) we were created to be.  Until that day we are fully restored, we get to dream about the wisps and shadows of What is to Come.  The tension is difficult but GOOD. 

    • I’ve got Kathy’s book on my night table right this blessed minute and she’s next. How funny! 

  • Lindsay

    It is so hard to embrace that tension and slow down enough to let God speak into it, but so worth it. So valuable. And I agree, 7 did not help my urge to drastically purge my entire life and go adopt every orphan I could get my hands on. 🙂 

  • please please please turn it upside down!!!!!! there are so many of us right there with you. I wrote this last week and it went up today: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/oh-lord-wont-you-buy-me-a-mercedes-benz. Mrs. Hatmaker and Mr. Claiborne and Mr. Chan are not helping me out one bit either.

  • Missy Kemp

    Yes, yes, I’ve felt this, this conflict, this desire to do some big thing to show I am different, He is making me different, to break the impatience with how things are and the fear of settling.  But sitting in the middle of the push pull, well, I’m trying to believe that is where something holy could happen, rather than a choice I make alone that gives me a quick hit of change. 

    Or maybe I just fear the change and it is easier to think about it. . . 

  • I struggle with this very thing, and at the same time grin and bear it when every two years does bring about a move or change in job description or a new country. We’ve been uprooting every 2 years for the past 13 and it’s getting old, and yet… it’s what we chose/want/were called for. Who knows?! Thankful I’m not alone in the holy discontent.

  • Sarah Eiley Cowherd

    Oh, I am so with you! I also just finished Jen hatmaker’s 7 and then devoured “Interrupted” as well. I am trying to live in the tension and be patient as well. It goes against every fiber of my being to be quiet and patient. Thankfully, my husband takes a much slower pace and balances me. Thank you for sharing your heart. It’s always affirming to know we’re not alone with our crazy dreams!

  • Sarah in GA

    you described a process that i go through once a year! 🙂 still learning the art of listening for what God is calling us to change and yet being content with what we have/what our life is right now. both are good. 

  • I just added your post my Weekend Edition of links because boy, oh boy do I get this. Loud and clear. My discomfort is a seasonal thing, definitely having to do with living (and not loving) March.  

    Reading over the comments looks like you hit a vein with this. At least we’re not alone. Which is what this whole blogging business is about.I loved this post (but I love them all). I’m such a hopelessly devoted fan of yours it’s not even funny… 

  • I can’t tell you how timely your post is.  I cried over lunch with my my hubby yesterday, explaining there was no one other than him I could talk to about this tension building inside me.  After reading Organized Simplicity earlier this year and being halfway through 7, I feel like there are some changes coming. My friends wouldn’t get it though and I don’t know how to process it all on my own. It is very nice to know others are struggling with the same tension and I am not a total freak, though I’m pretty sure my friends and family roll their eyes at me too!

  • We are the same person to the point where I can’t say it anymore but it never stops being true and it never stops freaking me out and I hope you’ll keep writing it and publishing it because you say it infinitely better than I ever could. Amen. 

  • Just like all the other commenters I think you’ve read my heart as well 🙂

  • I feel like Anne of Green Gables when she realizes Diana is her kindred spirit! lol!  but seriously, I am so there! 

  • Oh, how I love this.

    I’m restless for change, but hoping things will never change. I’m desperate to escape, but not sure if I’m willing to make the first steps. Right now, I see changes around the corner. Some of my choosing, others forced upon me, and it’s a scary place, change. But far worse, our stagnation.

  • kjayers63

    I agree with so many others who have commented.  It’s the same with me…..restless, like there is something else I need to be doing.  I feel it about every 5 years…..it is very, very hard.  

  • pastordt

    Oh Sarah – I just have to tell you, this one really made me chuckle. Not what you wanted to hear, I’ll bet. But there it is. Your list looks like the inside of my brain at certain times in my life. And yes, most likely this is a time of preparation for change. But you are very wise to just sit with the mixed up feelings for a while, tracing their roots, looking at your truest heart. Paul tells us he learned to be content no matter what his life circumstances were. And listen very carefully to me here, okay? that means being content with surplus as well as with deficit. It’s actually an okay thing to enjoy the gifts of your life – to steward them well and be generous with them? Yes, yes and yes again. But also, to be content with bounty as well as the lack of it. Because contentment  (not self-satisfaction/indolence/ blindness to the needs of others) – but contentment is desirable, yes it is. 

    Then again – Holy Discontent can be a good thing, too. So….there you have it …. again. Two warring opposites at work within. Be sure and let us know where you land with all this. Be praying for you in the meantime

  • Kelley Johnson

    Sarah… I feel like I want to read all thirty books on my reading table now – each one right now.  I want to stop buying more books,  just as another parcel of books lands on my doorstep and I open like a kid on Christmas morning!  I want to sit and read for hours.  I want to catch up on past episodes of The Daily Show.  I want to watch hours of nightly news.  I want to take a long nap.  I want to pen pages and pages in my journal.  I just want to sit in the quiet and do nothing!  For me, it is about input.  I want to take it all in right now.. and also take nothing in and just surrender in a sanctuary of stillness.  Ahhh… which thing to do (or not) right now?  That is my question.  Love you and miss you, but love imagining you in your chair reading + writing!

  • And I want to laugh right now. And cry. I’m there too.

  • Cmorford

    Holy discontent. A desire to just do something. In need of change. These are all ways I’ve described myself. Angst is not a word I’ve used, but it might be the best. But, I’m with you in this need to sit in this. To really seek out what God wants to change. I must admit, though, that I’m also impatient and every day of waiting and seeking and leaning in only adds to my angst and longing and holy discontent. It was encouraging to heat someone else describe so clearly how I feel.

    Also, my husband is a coach, which is a little different than working on a thesis, but still it means many nights I’m on my own and barely surviving. I so understand the countdown to when he returns. About mid-season I start counting down to the end of a season.

  • lindseyfoj

    I think I am like this too. And you put JUST the right words to it. All of it.

    Lean in to it….yes….that is what I need to do. Can you know the enormous weight that takes off of me in this RIDICULOUSLY long waiting season {yet again!} that I do not have to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW like my little brain screams to me.?

    It is difficult. And I am glad I am not alone.
    Thank you.

  • This is SO SO SO SO me. It is difficult. And exhausting.

  • Laurin

    I feel the same way, Sarah. I feel the same way.

  • Megan Jenkins

    Wow, Sarah.  My husband just sent me out for a few hours for a walk and a coffee because he can sense I’m in that “spot” again, just this.  So ready to upend and be different, inside and out, the ansty angst of wanting more and less, and needing to sort through all these emotions to hear the voice of God and move the right direction.  Your words fill me with life and light and laughter that I’m not alone (especially reading all the commenters too!) and peace that this is good, not just the ugly sort of discontent.  Thanks, kind friend!   

  • Janae Maslowski

    I love you for that list, for your turmoil and your leaning in.
    Oh, the blessed {crazy-making} tension of desire and waiting.
    I am with you, waiting in the midst, choosing now, accepting this.

  • Mizmelly

    Oh I hear you! I call it ‘restless soul’ and until recently I’ve been in a permanent restless soul state. I have been granted some peace for a time and am grateful. Just breathe for now and lean into it like you say. Am praying for you x

  • Tonia

    Love this post Sarah.  I get ya : ))  I think it’s a good sign of checking the heart and reevaluating things.  You are awesome!

  • Elizabeth Lehman

    so many of us thinking the same things!?  it’s pretty awesome, i guess.  discontent – angst – i think it’s good – if it brings about positive change.  i wonder if i’m up for it?  loved this post – i felt like you wrote out my thoughts.  i just finished 7 and peeked through organized simplicity for the second time… 

  • Yes! Yes! and Yes!  I was nodding my head through this entire post.  I have been slowly working through Tsh’s Organized Simplicity since the beginning of the year.  I got it when it was first released, and went right through it in a couple of days, now I need to sit and think on everything she is saying.  I am trying to declutter, trying to get a daily rhythm for my babes, trying to eat a whole food diet.  It is all hard.  And I am constantly saying I want to detach from the media we are surrounded with every day…it hasn’t happened yet though!  Good luck on your journey!

  • Heather Kopp

    I relate to this so much! What a beautiful post. I can’t believe the way you have with words. How come you get to sing and I just get to talk?  On the other hand, I love how we all sound different and yet the messages resonate. It’s not just your way with words that I love, Sarah, it’s your heart. It’s the screen you see life through. It always reminds me, yes, I want to see life that way too–as gift, as mystery, as wonder. Thanks for blessing so many of us with your blog. Heather

  • Emily Wierenga

    wow i love how so many of us can connect with this. you spoke my heart here sarah. again.

  • Agreed! I want to live a life full of stories, yet I keep repeating the same old ones again and again that were never exciting to begin with.

  • I have been struggling with feelings like this too and it doesn’t help that my husband has started applying for a few great pastor jobs in my home town in Michigan.  Oklahoma has never suited me well even though God has blessed me deeply.  I feel the need to change, the conflicted self, the desire to immerse in motherhood and also send them all away for a while.  Life is this amazing, difficult, beautiful and nitty gritty all at the same time.  You bless me, so don’t pull offline totally, I’ve already been up since 3:07 with the kids I don’t need a double tragedy.  

  • justamomandmore

    i know this feeling as well:)

  • Wendyborg

    Good luck with the leaning into it. Since discovering your blog I often wish you were a real life friend @rather than a cyber friend…. you so often speak straight to my heart of hearts, a place I didn’t think anyone else in the world understood. And here you have done it again tonight.

  • gpersons

    Oh yes.  Yes.  Homeschool forever and boarding school.  I thought that was just me.  🙂  Sick of cleaning, sick of facebook, yet…  I so totally get this.  Trying to learn to lean with you.

  • Rebecca

    I relate completely to this post. In seven years of marriage my husband and I have been through an enormous number of major life changes in addition to our three kids.  Sorting out what is the Spirit’s stirring, what is my own discontent and fear is a challenge.  I have recently discovered the ‘breath prayer.’  Maybe others are familiar.  (Here is an example:  http://www.thefellowship.info/Pray/Prayer-Practices/Breath-Prayer  )  A simple, repeated prayer like that really helps me put my heart on Christ and His completeness in my every situation and also on living in the present which is a must with 3 young ones around me.

  • jean_e_lane

    I am hoping my discontent is a God-thing.  I’m pretty sure it is.  I don’t go through cycles like you, but I am in the middle right now!  Next week.  Next week is my week to take off and bang at the doors of Heaven.  Cry and beg and plead and hang on as Jacob did, until I get the answers I need.  Thanks to the husband who will take care of things while I ‘retreat’.  Thanks to the friends who are going out of town and letting me crash at their place for a bit.  Thanks to God for forcing me to go through all of this!  I really like what you say, Sarah, about leaning into it.  That is exactly what I need to do.  But I do have to get away from all the distractions in order to do that.  Happy leaning to you!

  • I promise I hadn’t read this when I wrote the other day that I wanted to burn it all down. I don’t know if my itch is clockwork, but changes are afoot and it’s been just over 2 years. Except this time God took the reigns and started burning it all down and me watching it burn is decidedly less awesome. The whole out of control, being carried, thing. I’m not great at it.

    I admit that this post doesnt help my angst, unless “helping” is “making more ferocious”. 🙂

  • Yes and yes!  My dear husband knows this crazy talk so well.  And it has been the source of much good change in our lives, from time to time.  The good news for me is that he also ‘suffers’ from the same malady from time to time.  Which has led to many fun adventures for our family.  Right now, I’m trying to settle for these stirrings to just result in a cleaned out linen closet, and maybe a weekend away.  

  • anyamonroe.com

    I have never read a post that so sums up the workings of my heart.

  • Stephanie

    Goodness! We are FAMILIAR with that “itch.” Both Tim & I. We get it about every two years too – and I think it’s God whispering in our hearts to make the most of this one precious life.

  • Lattebookworm

    Bless Amy’s heart (Amy’s Humble Musings) for linking to this!
    I laughed so hard and identified so much that I immediately signed up
    to have updates emailed to me!  🙂

    Thanks for the encouragement to “feel the discomfort and explore it.”

  • Jenn

    Oh yes… I know exactly how this feels 🙂 been there, done that, we’re on repeat!

  • Sarah, thank you for this post! To read it and all the comments is . . . a relief. To know I’m not the only one who experiences these periods of yearning for something else. Mine tend to come and go more often than every two years but that idea of leaning in to it is such a challenge. And I love your list as well, it captures the “I will do ANYTHING!” aspect of it beautifully. I’ve been trying to plan for post-graduation in 15months time, “adventures” I call them – let’s move across the world and leave it all behind – but there are surely adventures to lean in to here first. 

  • alisoncreamer

    WOW you reflect my story so well. I guess its common feeling and at least I know Im not the only one. Every time I loose a baby to this darn IVF rollar coaster I want to toss everything in my life and start with a blank canvas. I guess it protection of hiding the evidence of my perceived failures.

  • aaaahhhh.

  • Yes.
    *Thank you*

  • Sarah, I so appreciate your grace-laden candor. Thanks for articulating a little bit of grace, a little bit of mercy. I find myself clinging for a spot in front of the Mercy seat, hoping to get sorted out sooner than later. And hoping that my soul isn’t as black and blue as I feel. 

  • Amie

    wow. . .ummmm, yeah.

  • Anonymous

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  • Hometown Perch

    There are so many parts to this post that I relate to. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one ready to crawl out of her skin every once in a while. 🙂