My current design obsession is this Butler Table by Baker. I have a tiny house and the thought of being able to unfold this puppy for an impromptu buffet is très appealing! Gorgeous and practical. And don't you think I need this Sam Moore zebra-print chair to go with my pillow? Yes. Well, in my dreams since it's all crazy expensive and my furniture budget is maxed for a while.
via Hooker Furniture (chair), Baker Furniture (Butler Table - folded and unfolded), House of Hackney (pillow)[/caption]
And then, here's the fabulous frenchie perfecting her "if I pretend I'm a meatloaf, maybe they'll just let me relax on the sofa" routine. Not sure why she needs to nap given that she spent 8 hours sleeping stretched out across the top of my bed last night (with me crunched into a corner, facing the non-smiling end of the dog!) Good thing she's so cute.
OK, dog and design time will return next week. Please be seated for the homily.
A few years ago, when I was writing Bliss Notes, I read a lot about the science of happiness. One of the books that has stayed with me was Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The book describes how one is able to get to a state of deep enjoyment and creativity by becoming fully engaged in an activity that utilizes one's gifts and skills. During this state, time flies, worries disappear, and one often forgets to eat lunch. Others have described this state as being 'in the zone' or 'in the groove' but I like to think of it as fulfilling God's plan. When I've experienced flow in the past, projects progress smoothly, interesting opportunities present themselves, and serendipity is at play. Later, people will ask me "how did you get to do that?" and I truly do not have an answer for them. "Don't know, it just sort of happened" is the only explanation. Of course, it did not just sort of happen. When you are using your God-given skills to fulfill God's plan, things are easy. It does not mean that you don't have to work hard (you do) or that you will not encounter obstacles (you will) but you have the time and energy to push through and overcome. And lots of miracles happen along the way.
For the last few years nothing has flowed. I've been wading through frozen molasses. Ever since my divorce, I've been sick (like shingles and other awful stuff), I've encountered insurmountable roadblocks and obstacles, and I've encountered some truly diabolical characters - and I don't use that word lightly. It seemed so unfair that everyone else I encountered seemed to be living happy lives and I'd been cast out into the wilderness. And so I tried to recapture some of what I'd lost. Boy oh boy, did I try. And the harder I tried, the worse things got. Because I was not living God's plan for me. Instead I was living my plan which was the "let's get everything back we lost so we can get back on plan" plan.
And of course, that's when the devil pops up as he knows - like the con man who rolls into town after a tornado - that people are never more vulnerable than they are after a loss. Wouldn't it be awesome if the devil were more obvious, like the cheese-sampler guy in the Kraft Habanero commercial? (That commercial never fails to make me laugh. Hot to trot? *Snort*) But no, the devil does not sport a blue apron, offering up temptation on a toothpick. Instead he comes in the form of bad-for-us people or that Iago-like voice in our heads. After a loss, he tends to offer us a quick fix for our troubles. And sometimes we can even twist that voice to sound a bit like God. "Hey, this is the part where we get a double portion for our trouble!" we think. Of course we know somewhere deep down inside that it's not God offering us the beach house in a way that's entirely inconsistent with scripture, but the concept of God as an insurance agent with a make-whole policy is kind of nice, no?
And so we ignore all of the warning signs that we are dangerously off track and veering toward the flames. We get sick. Things get tough. Life doesn't flow. "You're going the wrong way!" life frequently shouted at me in a voice reminiscent of the trying-to-be-helpful motorist in Planes Trains and Automobiles. But my inner Del would not be silenced: "Oh, he's drunk. How would he know where we're going?"
It was only when my proverbial car caught on fire and my credit card melted in the glovebox (ever have a Love Inspired book devolve into a Lifetime movie of the week?) that I finally got the message.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9
Instead of trying so hard to put my plan into place, I realized perhaps I should listen to the smartest guy in the room.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11
God promises a special plan for our lives, for which we have been given unique gifts. We are not meant to live other people's lives. I have to repeat this to myself daily: We are not meant to live other people's lives. So when I hear about someone getting a ski chalet, or a really cool job opportunity, or something amazing happens to their kids, I no longer think "Unfair! Why did they get that and not me?" Instead I think, "Awesome!" They are on their path. And I am on mine. Believe me, this is a new feeling.
I am also not supposed to live the life I used to have. Or the life to which I thought I was entitled as compensation for clean living and careful planning. God has a plan for my life right now. And it's a great plan. A better plan that I could ever have crafted for myself.
But my plan requires me to listen. And to be still. And to have trust. Because I'm not the one with the map. I'm not very good at any of those things. But I've been trying to listen to the still, small voice and take baby steps. And when things start to flow - when opportunities present themselves and obstacles fall away - I know I'm on the right path.
And you know what? Since I have started doing that, I've become unstuck. I found a house that is perfectly suited to my family - right down to the stained glass. We found the perfect dog for us - a perfect amalgamation of Marie Antoinette and Chuck Bronson. I've met some excellent people. I've joined some fun groups. I ended up at a lunch with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, for the love of Pete. If that's not flow, I don't know what is!
And even the hard stuff is not as difficult. Writing is never easy, but it is natural once again. Editing is a chore, but a feasible one. I'm a deep introvert and yet I find myself on the social committee at the most extroverted place in town. I've been asked to do a little speaking and I have something I want to say. I have to do some sketches for this project I'm working on - and people, I can't draw for beans - but even that's flowing.
Today is a PD day and I have had 5 kids in my house under the age of 10. And you know what? That flowed too. In between cooking hotdogs and baking chocolate chip cookies, and riding herd on any potential chaos, I was able to write this post, do the laundry and finish a drawing. That's the equivalent of loaves and fishes around these parts.
I write this not as the online version of the braggarty Christmas letter (please, not that.) Believe me, I take absolutely no credit for how things have been redeemed. The glory is all His. But in the past, people have told me that one of my gifts is to share what has happened to me and how I got through it. And that has made it just a tiny bit easier for people going through the same thing. So if you are in the fire, know that you are not alone (remember the fourth man!), you will never be forgotten and the situation will be redeemed. God has plans to give you hope and a future. A future where things will flow once again.