The premise of this blog has been that life is better when we slow life down, savor the good things in life, and live intentionally. At one time five years ago, I was a fully employed graphic designer running around to the peak of business, yet both bored with life and stressed by it. Then I started my worldwide wanderings with my husband and had adventures to fill a life-time while still volunteering to do graphic design everywhere I went. The fact is I like doing graphic design. I especially like it when the ideas of everyone involved mesh to create something really beautiful.
I continually find myself researching trends and the latest technology wishing I could buy it! I find myself analyzing signs, books, menus, and general advertisements for the quality of technique or originality of the ideas. My first experience with graphic design was over 15 years ago, working on the layouts of my high school yearbook on Adobe Pagemaker. I remember learning how to design on a grid and indicating whether pages would be full-color, black and white, or duotone. It wasn’t award-winning design work, but looking back on it, I experimented with every technique taught to me and came up with quite a few original designs. I spent hours sitting at the computer trying out all the features that Pagemaker had, and by my senior year I had mastered the program. I went to college to pursue my dream and got my degree in 3 years. I have not stopped designing since. Work finds me and I find work.
I also have had the dream to be at home with my children as they grew up. This was my focus for the past four years (even while doing some side design work in the middle of the night). I had intended to put the award-winning, world-traveling, graphic designer dream away for this stay-at-home mom dream. My son had the benefit of my constant presence during a time when he really needed it, but God has a way of shaking things up.
We had a nicely orchestrated plan for my husband to pursue his career as a full-time college professor, and I would stay at home to manage the home. He would eventually get tenure and we would get the nice little house with the white picket fence and a dog in our carefully planted garden while having the 1.3 more children/child so we could be the average middle-class American family. Unfortunately, we just don’t fit the mold.
My husband is too liberal for the conservative universities and too conservative for the liberal universities. His talent seems to be in writing and publishing research and in that he has been finding interest and success. Can a person force doors open that God has closed or close doors that God has opened? At some point, a person must re-look at the plan and dream and find out where is God leading and what does life today require. I have read enough biographies to know that you can’t make life bend and twist to your will no matter what the motivational speakers say. Sometimes the best path to your dreams is in a completely different direction. Sometimes you have to give up your dreams to get it. Sometimes, as the Bible says, you have to lay down your life to live it.
I also find that so many of our dreams are complicated mixtures of things that we try to make all happen at the same time. How can I be a world-class graphic designer and a full-time stay-at-home mom? Some people can work at home and balance their life. I find it a bit tough. Yet I see that life has seasons in which each of our dreams happen at different points in our lives.
As Christians we say that God can do abundantly more than we ask or dream. I have also heard people say that they can dream pretty big things (usually meaning money, fame, or possessions), but I wonder if that is really the way God works. Happiness is a complicated thing. I have never read a biography of a rich person who had no problems. I think when the Bible talks about prosperity and providing our desires, he isn’t actually thinking about our bank account. He is talking about our character, relationship with Him, relationship with each other and happiness. Our dreams are often God-given, but perhaps not in the form we cling to.
This year I have learned that the more I cling to what I want or expect to happen, the more I limit what opportunities God brings in our lives. It has been a year of letting go of so much.
Suddenly, older and deeper dreams are becoming not only possible, but necessary. I not only get to pursue my career more fully, but for the success of us as a family, I need to so that my husband can also pursue the path opening to him for writing.That motivation pushes me to try for opportunities that I would never had pursued before. I suddenly can reach for the moon rather that just take a job to get by. I can really try to push myself and the God-given abilities that keep wanting to be expressed.
The plan has now changed. From the house in the neighborhood with a driving commute, we now hope for the downtown apartment within walking distance or mass transit to work, church, the park, zoo, and museums. The slower, savoring, purposeful life is now envisioned within the bustling city in which we purposefully live life in our own way and at our own pace. That internal calmness that I have been trying to foster will be the steadying force in a fast-paced designing atmosphere in which I stop the chaos and ask, “what is needed now?”, “what is top priority now?”, and actually take my breaks to slow down the rush so I can design with purposeful care. I have found this “slowing down” actually speeds up my productivity at work by having fewer mistakes, clearer communication, and healthy emotional boundaries.
In this journey of heartaches, letting go, and re-evaluating our goals, I suddenly feel confident that I can handle anything a job can throw at me. I feel equipped to lead, to prioritize, and to create. I searched out all my inner resources and re-assessed my spiritual foundation. I have seen a lot and lived a lot in the past five years. I now know what is the best and worst that life can throw and see that anything can happen.
Life, perhaps even our own dreams and wishes in life, are a lot like a dragon from the fairytales. Sometimes the dragon is the villain, and sometimes the dragon is the hero, but in all stories the dragon is a powerful mysterious force that the main character has no ability to control or force to their own will. Am I saying that God is not in control of life or our destinies? No. I kind of see God as the King who sends the character out to confront the dragon. It is in confronting the dragon that the King really sees what we are made of, and often the confrontation itself changes us to be more than what we were.
Pursue your dreams, but be warned, the journey is never easy, the dream often isn’t what it seems, and you can really get there and stay the same person you were. Yet, we all confront that dragon in the hope we can ride it and fly. May your dreams give you wings. I hope mine does.