Stuck. What You Can Do. (And What to Do if You Can’t.)

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The school auditorium smelled of brand new carpet and buzzed with the energy of a hundred unjaded teenagers. My sister-in-law and I sat in the row furthest back, because even though we came for the presentation on career tracks, school spirit, blah, blah, blah, we really came to whisper back and forth. We listened to the school rules and both of us agreed we were glad to be adults. We talked about our summers, our kids, our appreciation for vacations AND routines. Somehow, the conversation turned to being stuck – the physical kind – quickly escalating into psychological stuckness, a stuckness mothers of teenagers know very well.

I’ve had many a conversation with a teenager in a slump. I ask what’s wrong and they don’t know. I encourage them to identify the stuckness because it’s the only way to find their spot on the map of unfamiliar territory. They groan. I ask what they want and a litany of what they don’t want erupts.

I assure them ruminating on solutions will eventually help them ‘see’ a path out. Then I hope for the best. One day, the teenager organizes their closet, unloads their dresser, fills half a dozen trash bags with toys, knick knacks, and clothing that no longer suits them, and magically, they come unstuck.

My sister-in-law confirmed she’d witnessed this unsticking process with her own kids as well and we both agreed the physical process of cleaning does wonders for unraveling mental and emotional stickiness. But surely there was a more defined process for coming unstuck. We decided an acronym might help us, and quite possibly, help all of humanity. (We were solving the world’s problems that day.) Being the child of a teacher and a preacher, I knew I was genetically wired for creating acronyms, so there in the back of the high school auditorium, during a PowerPoint presentation on Chromebooks, STUCK was born:

Symbolically, Seriously, Systematically, or Systemically



Constraints, Conflicts, or Comparisons of

Knowledge, Kinesthetics, Keeps, or Kindness

Yes, friend, this acronym is yours to use freely and often. Is it wordy? Sure. Complex? Clearly. But one thing is for certain – this acronym’s multitude of combinations will sum up your ‘stuck’.

For example, I’ve been stuck in my workout routine, or to say it better, I’ve been procrastinating because I’m bored with my home gym options. I was Symbolically Trapped Under Conflicts of Kinesthetics, I guess, so I rejoined my gym and I’m back to enjoying fitness classes. I named my stuck issue so I could tame it and move toward a better sense of wellbeing. My sister-in-law was right – an acronym helps.

But I had an epiphany shortly after my Ash Wednesday post. What about the stuck places that are intended for me, the times when I’m Spiritually Tested, Uniquely Conditioned – Knowingly? This is the stuck that scares me most, and I have to admit, moving in faith is an attractive topic because the opposite – sitting still in my faith because I must – is so absolutely frustrating, so contrary to the adventure I picture faith to be.

I savor the Bible stories of courage and action. I cringe through the stories where years pass, adversity comes, and plans go unfulfilled. But just as in the stories of Joseph, Hannah, David, Job, and the many people healed by Jesus in the gospels, ‘stuck’ points have a purpose on the timeline. These are the points where patience gives way to fully surrendered trust. These stories of patience aren’t indicators of tepid faith, but faith on fire.

When grief, loss, upheaval, and suffering come, when conditions are out of my control and problems won’t budge, when there are closed doors and dead ends, and I simply cannot move – how do I move in faith? By actively trusting, patiently waiting, expectantly watching, and firmly relying on God to move. I move my lips in prayer and make it my habit. I do what I can, accept what is, and continue hoping. I stay awake, alert, and grateful, so that when the ground moves under my feet, I’m ready.


What’s your stuck look like? Maybe it’s something you can solve on your own and a long walk or closet purging session will bring your ‘aha’ moment. Maybe it’s something outside your limits and you’re familiar with prayers so deep, you never say a word. Maybe it’s unclear if you’re in a procrastinating place or a patience place. Answering the following questions often helps me identify my sticking points and the shifts I need to make. Praying through the questions helps me even more.

What am I thinking? (What’s playing on a loop in my mind?)

What am I feeling? (What emotions are being fueled by my mindset? What mindset is fueling my emotions?)

What am I doing – behaviors, actions, patterns? (Are they coping, numbing, avoidant?)

What am I praying?

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  1. Hi Michelle,

    Shawn Coffey here. As you are probably aware by now, through Jenny, Dickie went to be with Jesus on March 9th. The unexpectedness of this, only 13 years into our marriage has hit me like a train . The emptiness I feel in my heart and soul is overwhelming, but I am doing my best to soldier on. I know in my head that life is too wonderful to stay in bed and pull the blankets up over myself. Knowing in my heart is a different issue.
    I wanted to take time to tell you how much I enjoy your commentaries and stories about your family. I have been reading them for quite a while. One of Dickie’s many gifts was that he took time! He took time for people by helping then either physically, monetarily or by giving them the gift of listening, when ever he could, but also by reaching out to tell them “thankyou” or to just check in . So I am saying “thank you” for sharing your words of wisdom with the world. I am at that “stuck” point right now. How do I move past the overwhelming grief that consumes my heart. I know I am expecting too much from myself , so early on and I need to be patient with myself. I am doing my best to listen and be ready when God speaks to me . I long to hear His voice tell me that all will be OK and that His grand plan will be clearer when I one day meet Jesus. So many questions go through my head, but mostly why? why? why? Why would a devout child of God, who dedicated his life to serving others have to leave this world so young. The solace of know Dickie longed to be with Jesus brings me some peace, but my earthly heart aches for his voice, his touch, his smell, his humor, his phone call or text message, and his presence in our home that we love and built together. My earthy and human heart says ” we had so much more to do, to live, to share, to laugh and love together as husband and wife” . How do I ” do life” with out my soul mate and best friend. What is this “new normal” that others speak of and I keep telling myself , I will find.
    I know I am rambling, but I you know that you understand putting feelings down on paper is part of the healing process. With that , I say “thank you” again for your words of wisdom . I enjoy hearing about the children and your life. Who knows, maybe now that I am retiring, it will give me the freedom to come and visit. Than you or sharing your lie and world with me.

    Take care,

    Shawn Coffey

    1. Dear Shawn,

      You have been in my prayers often, during the hospitalization and after. I’m grieved and perplexed by your unexpected loss. ‘Hit like a train’ is probably an inadequate picture for the overwhelm. There are no words for grief. Even C. S. Lewis was stumped by it.

      I thought of you a lot as I wrote this post. This was not the topic I intended to write. In fact, another piece was nearly finished, but I kept coming back to this one, kept coming back to stuck and the frightening reality that we have a God who allows the enormity of hardship to fall on and around us. Fortunately, He does not ask us to solve it. He does not demand we soldier on. He does not expect us to make sense of it all. How could we?

      I’m thinking about the blanket you mentioned pulling over your head. Blankets are a source of comfort, but if you’re a stoic like me (and I’m guessing you are since you are learning to be patient with yourself), a blanket can easily become a source of shame, a symbol of giving up or giving in. I think about Boaz covering Ruth, a widow, too, with the corner of his blanket. It was a sign of provision and redemption. Ruth had chosen to take refuge under God’s wings, just like the picture in Psalm 91:4 – “He will cover you with His feathers…with His faithfulness.” Take comfort in the way God covers you during this time of grief. Keep listening, and I promise, He will tell you when the time for rest is over. You will fly again. But today, rest. Heal. You will hear Him.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. It means more than you know. What a gift Dickie had for making people feel seen and known. (Blakely misses this, too.) What a great honor that you would wear that piece of him and live changed because of who he was – who he will continue to be. You will keep him and you will miss him. I don’t understand how we make peace with that, but I encourage you to keep writing. I believe it will strengthen you and strengthen others.

      My home is open to you any time and I look forward to having you visit. Please do.

      Lord Jesus, comfort my friend, Shawn. Cover her with peace and provision beyond understanding. Give her ears to hear what You will say, because we trust that You will.


  2. Being stuck is not fun. Its purpose propels me to get something done. In all areas of life. Funny that I read this today many days after your post, because today I “Seriously – Tackled – Ubiquitous – Collections – (of) – Knickknacks” … decluttered my hideaway places and uncluttered my mind. And I didn’t even save it for a “rainy day” … Ha!
    I am also “stuck” in the middle of reading through the Bible this year … “Spiritually – Tracking – (the) Ultimate – Collection – (of) Knowledge.” And, as usual God does not disappoint, and He always refreshes.
    Being stuck can lead to fulfillment in new & fresh ways! May my faith in God’s good purposes keep propelling me forward.

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