I have this spiral-bound notebook. It's red, and has a haphazard drawing of a daisy on it with glittery petals. In the lower corner it reads, "My notes." I scribbled the "notes" out and replaced it with "plans."
Five or so years ago, I was in the middle of a....funk. I was working nights and had come to a circadian impasse: I couldn't sleep day OR night. I was taking ambien AND Benadryl to no avail, and was barely scraping by on a handful of hours of sleep at best each day. My job at the time was stressful and I was dealing with a number of mentally and emotionally draining cases. I was in a relationship that was on a slow train to nowhere, which left me in a chronic state of anticipation met with frustration. I was so. Frustrated. With life. I cried out to God on a regular basis: Help me sleep. Help me get by at work. Show me what to do with this guy.
There is so little in this life over which we really have a ton of control. I really think God was teaching me that at the time, and was systematically prying my fingers off of the things to which I was clinging so tightly. He does that sometimes. It sucks.
I had bought this one book, called "Table for One: The Savvy Girl's Guide to Being Single." That book was - apart from the Bible - like a life manual for me! It was written by a 30-something single gal who was REAL...her descriptions of her feelings hit so close to home that they made me cry. But at the end of the book, it made me want to sing from the rooftops about the blessed season God had me in. Above all, the part that resonated with me the most was that God has put SO many desires in our hearts. At the time, the one desire I thought I had was to be married. But she made me stop and think, wait a second...maybe I can't do much about the married part right NOW, but there are probably some things that I CAN do right now that I've always wanted to....
So I bought the notebook. I ripped out pages from my National Geographic Adventure magazines of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to do someday. I taped in newspaper clippings of fun things to do in the area - like kiteboarding lessons in Traverse City and hangliding up near my parents' house. I made lists of things I wanted to do someday - reasonable and far-fetched. I sat on my couch - flanked by throw pillows that were stained with mascara from me crying so much - and started to map out a life that was entirely possible to have if I was willing to take a few chances. I was figuring out that God never intended for me to sit and mark time. Wait on HIM - yes. Watch life go by, enveloping myself in frustration because I wasn't getting what I thought I needed to have - not so much.
So I decided to be a camp nurse. That way I could be a nurse AND be outside and reset my body clock, right? I broke up with the guy. I dumped my earthlies into storage. And with a "Home is where the car is" clipping taped to the dashboard in my car, off I tooted for parts unknown. A life unknown. It was awesome and horrifying all at once. But that day I started to chip away at a list I had made on April 6, 2005: "Things I want to do in the next five years." Twenty-one things - ridiculous and reasonable - that I could make a way to do in five years. Buy a digital camera. Get a passport. Learn how to kayak. Live near the water in California. Learn how to change a flat. Those were some of the ones I've managed to check off. Others (ski in British Columbia, kayak by the Baja peninsula, camp in Banff National Park) are still up for grabs. Maybe I'll have to extend the deadline on my little list...
My point is, that notebook was one of the best investments I may have ever made (besides a marriage license signed by a certain sweet man and the purchase of a certain yellow dog). I still visit that notebook and update it, sign and date the pages of places where I have finally been. I remind myself that now that I finally DO have that desire of my heart fulfilled - marriage - I still have other desires that bubble around in me. Places to go. Things to try. When I'm bored or discouraged or need inspiration, I pull the book out. I still rip out magazine pages and tape them in. I make new lists. I dream and plan, and if things work out right, I do.
If you're finding yourself in a funk like I had (and I still have funks - please don't think that now I'm sittin' pretty and my every whim is fulfilled!), please be encouraged. Maybe life doesn't look exactly like you anticipated, but there's a purpose and a sweetness in every season, even if it's a difficult one. God draws us to Him in so many ways. And He's fashioned us all with passions and desires and dreams - more than we even realize. You may not have that much control over your current situation, but you CAN control how you respond to it...either drink up every last drop of despair and hold your cup out for more - OR - push yourself away from the table and sit at a new one. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
No matter how old you are or what season of life you're in, start makin' your list. Ask God to reveal to you what He has in store for a willing heart. Man makes his plans, and the Lord directs his steps (some verse in Proverbs - Psalms? - can't remember which one, but you get the point). It doesn't have to be grandiose or as drastic as dumping your stuff in storage and heading for the mountains - it can be as simple as tackling that book you've always wanted to read, volunteering locally, taking a community ed class, or checking out a new park or trail. Tap into that heart God gave you, and see where He takes you!