When Life Feels Off-Kilter

by Sue Reeve

Written in early May, 2015

I wanted to make sure I used the hyphenated word correctly. A quick Internet search in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary confirmed I was spot-on:


not in perfect balance;

a bit askew;

different from the ordinary, usual, or expected.

     I don’t know if you feel the same as I, but sometimes it feels like life is off-kilter.  Last Thursday was one of those times.

     I’d spent much of the day talking with a group of folks who were reeling from the suicide death of a friend’s teenage daughter.

     The beautiful child’s final act was inconceivable.

      The tragic details emerging were unbelievable.

       The comprehension of their new reality was still surreal.

     Collectively, the group of friends felt off-kilter as did I when I left their office.

     On my way home afterward, I decided a little shopping at Macy’s might help take my mind off the day’s sadness. After wandering around the store for nearly an hour, I realized the navy blue pants I wanted weren’t going to be found at Macy’s, and I returned to the car, prepared to head for the predictable comfort of home. First, though, I decided, to check my smart phone.

     Several missed messages, none particularly important, could be answered later.  But, one text jumped from the phone to the very center of my heart: Our daughter, Sarah, wrote,

Mom and Dad, do you want to come over about 7:00 to learn whether you’re having a granddaughter or a grandson?

     “Of course,”I typed hastily, while trotting back into Macy’s to buy a little girl outfit and a little boy outfit.

     You’ll be returning one, so don’t lose the sales slip,the sensible lobe of my brain reminded the silly side.

     Anticipation built in four anxious grandparents-to-be as our 4-year old granddaughter, Emmi, swung her little pink Mariner’s baseball bat at the basketball piñata.  (You may be thinking that’s an odd combination, but if you knew our son-in-law, Brandon, it would make perfect sense.  Brandon is nuts about sports. His favorites are regional teams:  Seattle Seahawks for football, Seattle Mariners for baseball and his hometown’s impressive Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team.  Emmi was born during March Madness and came home from the hospital wearing a Zag’s onesie with tiny Zag’s booties. A love for sports is in the child’s DNA.)

     Our granddaughter swung that little pink bat with all her might. Finally Gibbs, their rambunctious goldendoodle, joined in.  Between Emmi’s swings and Gibbs’ chomps, the piñata broke open.  Blue colored candies scattered everywhere.  It’s a Boy!!!  My first thought was pure delight.  My second was that my one and only grandson, Jackson, would need to relinquish his position as “Grandma Susie’s favorite grandson.”


     The excitement left us feeling exhilarated.

Emmi’s announcement she wanted her baby brother named “Russell Wilson” elicited peals of laughter.

     Our new reality seemed one of good fortune.

     Ron and I had driven separate cars that evening, and I was left to wrestle with my off-kilter thoughts on the 20-minute drive home. The juxtaposition of the day didn’t make sense—the tragic suicide death of a mere child teetering on our family’s It’s-a- Boy! joy.

     My favorite definition of stress is:  A disruption of emotional equilibrium.  I heard the actor Liam Neeson in a Sixty-Minutes interview discuss the period following his wife’s sudden, unexpected death from what seemed to be a minor skiing accident.  Neeson described this time like feeling he was sitting on a three-legged chair.  Life always feels off-kilter following any critical incident—sudden death, accident, act of violence or natural disaster.

     The life miles I’ve traveled assure me the journey will never be in perfect balance.  Stress of some type always tags along.  I realize my future will include many minor-off-kilter days and probably some major-off-kilter seasons.

     So, how can I, a woman of faith, navigate times when life feels off-kilter?  As one who’s attended many critical incident and stress management training courses, I realize the answer to that question is terribly complex.  A one-size-fits-all recovery process doesn’t exist. Time is required—sometimes lots of time. Depending on the event, regaining complete balance may never occur in this lifetime.

     I’ve discovered the starting point to regaining my emotional equilibrium is trust in the immutable—never-changing—character of God.

Life as we know it is mutable.

     Our bodies change.  Health wanes.  Wrinkles appear.  Body parts sag.

      Close relationships transition perpetually through some new phase.

       Our responsibilities keep fluctuating.

        The world in which we live seems to never settle down.

     During times when I struggle with the off-kilter reality of life, Scriptures I so often cling-to-for-life assure me that God

      NEVER changes.  (Hebrews 13:8)

       Will NEVER leave nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:5)

        IS, and WAS and IS TO COME. (Revelation 1:8)

      This conviction ensures me that while my life may feel off-kilter, my God always remains rock solid.

Listening on YOUR Journey:

  • What off-kilter seasons have you experienced in your life? What was the ‘starting point’ that helped you regain emotional equilibrium?
  • What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read these phrases?
    • God never changes.
    • God will never leave nor forsake me.
    • God is, and was, and is to come.

emmi chalkboard

A few weeks before she swung at the piñata, this is how Emmi let us know we were going to be grandparents for the fifth time.  Needless to say, her clever chalkboard announcement brought great joy!


8 thoughts on “When Life Feels Off-Kilter

  1. Thank you, Sue, for this timely word! I found myself on that 3 legged chair just yesterday! Your insights were framed in a way my heart could easily embrace!

  2. Hi! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

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