We became empty nesters last August. Because I feared boredom and purposelessness – as well as the fact my medications cost an astronomical amount and my employment offers better prescription coverage – I decided to go back to work full-time. Additionally, after shelving my career for 20 years to raise kids, I was excited to get back into nursing – especially psychiatric nursing.

At least that’s what I told people.  

Another truth is this: I had a big ‘ole chip on my shoulder. I was hell-bent on proving that I physically had what it takes to work a fulltime job like any other healthy 53 year old.

And I did it. I showed myself and the world I can work full-time. But I am definitely not healthy.

I also proved I was living in denial.

The truth is I have a lung-sucking disease and working full time has nearly been the death of me. I kept the job afloat, but nothing else. For seven months I’ve basically done two things: work and sleep. With zero energy left after a day of work, and every day home spent sleeping, I soon felt the sting of deteriorating relationships. I didn’t Skype my kids as much as I/they wanted to. I didn’t spend near enough time with my mom – our last living parent – and I missed her. I had no energy for lunch dates with friends or volunteering in our neighborhood.

Although my pulmonologist says exercise is essential for protecting the last bit of healthy lung tissue I have left, I’ve had no energy to do that either. On top of all THAT, I’m now probably damned to hell, too, because I only went to church ONCE that whole time of working so much.

And maybe, just maybe, the worst part was this:  I stopped writing.

SMELLY PEOPLE GOT ME BACK ON TRACK                                                      

I recently scooted in to my neighborhood Dollar Store that’s sandwiched between an Iraqi-owned liquor store and a Psychic Angel who takes walk-ins. I was running late (surprise!) and I sighed in frustration when I got to the counter and was fourth in line. (The Dollar Store is not typically known for it’s speedy checkout, if you didn’t know…) First in line was a toothless woman, smacking her gums, buying a full week’s worth of groceries. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? The next lady sported a good five-day bed-head, wore pink footed pajamas underneath her coat and boots, and was purchasing four 2-liters of Mountain Dew. AT 9:30 IN THE MORNING??? The guy just ahead of me was lugging his oxygen tank, breathing like Darth Vader, and buying cough syrup, cough drops and fever medicine. LORD, PLEASE LET THIS NOT BE CORONA!!!

My three compatriots smelled like cigarettes, booze, bacon, and body odor.

I rolled my eyes and checked my watch. These neighbors of mine who shop at the Dollar Store to meet all their needs were making me (more) late. I was angry and somewhat disgusted with them. Then the old man ahead of me turned around, and with twinkling eyes and a smile said: “Good thing no one’s in a hurry.” His breath was so hideous I nearly fainted. But God used all those smells to reorient me.

A few years ago, when we moved to the city, I chose my new grocery store in an unorthodox manner. There are two lovely stores close to our home – always clean, well-stocked, nice checkout clerks. But just to the north, through the roughest part of our neighborhood, is one of Michigan’s oldest Meijer stores – but it doesn’t smell quite right. There have been murders in the parking lot. With my first visit, I immediately knew this would be my new “home” store.

Paul was inquisitive about this decision and I explained, “We came here for diversity. I don’t want to smell perfume and flowers when I go shopping, I want to smell humanity.”

Standing in line at the Dollar Store I was struck by how derailed I’ve been. THESE three in line ahead of me are my people! These are the people we moved here for! These are the smells I love because it represents REAL people with REAL needs and REAL hurts. I don’t want to live in a fake utopia. I want to live in the real world and be constantly reminded of the reality of suffering. That is why we moved to Grand Rapids – to DO LIFE with these neighbors.

More than anything, we moved to the city so we could encounter people not like us and spend time with them and learn from them. The LAST thing I wanted to be was too busy, too important, or too good to love them! The LAST thing Paul and I ever wanted to be were typical rat-race-suburbanites simply transplanted to the city and subsequently disgusted with the people around us!

I had been derailed! I forgot who I was!


Feeling fairly healthy these last seven years, I’d forgotten a bargain I’d made with God. When I was first diagnosed with LAM, I had told God I’d live my life solely investing in the lives of others if he’d just give me 10 more years to live. But as time progresses and it appears maybe I’ve drawn the long stick with this LAM disease and might even live considerably longer than 10 years, I forgot about living my life with total intentionality. Sure, I can make good money working, but there’s not a damn thing I want in this life that money can buy.

And then – dang – if God didn’t use ZEPHANIAH of all books to speak to me this week: “I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath.”

I had made plenty of “silver and gold” during my derailment, but I’m terrified of the thought of my entrails spread out like dung because I had chosen money over matter.


However, the good news is this: derailment does not have to mean train wreck. It doesn’t mean all is lost. It doesn’t mean throw in the towel or burn it all down. The beauty of derailment is that, if we’re willing, it can be corrected.

God never moves, but sometimes we do. His train tracks are eternally secure, we just sometimes veer off them. But he is always patient with us and will wait as long as it takes for us to get back on track.

“Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40

“And I am confident of this very thing, that he who begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phillipians 1:6

So I’m back to volunteering, spending time with friends and family, and taking long walks with Paul while we solve the world’s problems. And I’m back to writing again.

Here we go!

(p.s. If you want to stay informed of my book progress, please sign up with your e-mail address on my website so you can receive my newsletter updates and prayer requests)

27 thoughts on “Derailed

    1. HI Cindy, thanks for sharing your story! And I will lift you up in prayer for your health and writing!!! FYI—Several years ago, (I may have shared this with you before) I suffered an unexpected stroke due to a severing of my artery due to a chiropractice adjustment to my neck. As I moved through that experience, it became clear to me, that God was inviting me to move away from my full time profession as a lawyer and work only part-time so I could devote more time and energy to writing. The Order—Disorder—let me to understand the Reorder that God was bringing about in my life. I share that story as an encouragement to you. Perhaps the lung limitations, are a both-and—certainly tough, but also perhaps a nudge to open my space for you to WRITE ON!!! So, keep up the good work. I am glad you are back on track with your writing. Blessings to you.

  1. Cindy,
    So many issues to ponder in this post, but as I kept reading I couldn’t help thinking about what a beautiful reflection for this Lenten season. We sacrifice to get closer to God and we sacrifice to be who God wants us to be and we sacrifice to learn what’s important in life. It sounds like you have found it.

    Love you 🙂

    1. Oh Leisa – I love this comparison to the sacrifice of Lent. So true. What sacrifice could we possibly make that would compare to what our Savior made for us? Nothing. Not a thing. Considering that, I will, of course, sacrifice whatever I must – even my life – if that’s what God asks of me. Love you so much.

  2. My fellow LAM sister and old nursing friend,
    I cherish this with my whole heart. I can say I truly feel what you are feeling. Place God first and everything else will fall right into place. Our cares should not be on earthly things, but rather in things above.
    Keep writing…..please.
    Carole Laugavitz

  3. I’ve missed your blog posts. This was just as good as the previous ones. You should pop into the coffee shop on some Monday.

  4. Dear, “Derailed”, luv your posts and writing. You keep it real and remind us what matters! keep on keepin on!

    1. Thank you so much, Irina! I always appreciate your support and enthusiasm! People like you keep me going – I can’t even tell you how often the enemy has me convinced I need to quit writing, that I’m no good at it, and that I have nothing to contribute in the literary world. But then a few voices come along and tell me differently and say they’re praying for me and that has made ALL the difference!

  5. Cindy– your blog is the only one I subscribe to and I love every. single. one.
    I always laugh… find myself nodding in agreement… and thanking you for sharing your heart so honestly and graciously. So glad you’re back at your computer! Yes keep writing!!!! xo

    1. Thank-you so much, Patty! I’m so freakin weak, so freakin insecure, so freakin unsure of the future of my writing world. People like you keep me going. Love you so much!!!

  6. Love Your Writing!
    Life is complex.
    Maybe not when shopping, but sometime along the way, take time to smell the flowers.
    It feeds the soul.
    And spend time with your Mom. It will be a gift to each of you!

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