My pastor once spoke in a sermon years ago, "if you don't know what to do and you feel stuck, go back to the last thing God told you to do, and do it." The words seemed to be the overlying theme of my life, and reverberated through my heart. I've thought of them often in times of discontent.
I have a habit of feeling stuck. Of feeling ready for something else, instead of being content with where I am currently. I don't want to look back and think, "It's too bad I didn't just see the beauty in my circumstances," because I've already done that. I've already thought that very thing. Truth is, whatever I have gone through in the past, I look back upon those times with a certain affection. There is always something about my life that brought me great joy.
Sometimes it's something as simple of a memory of having the windows open all summer, the gentle light pouring into the living room, the peaceful sounds of Iron and Wine, and watching River color in his high chair.
Or the way I had all those plants beneath the giant window in my living room. The tile floor that, as much as I hated sweeping it three times a day, was beautiful and cool and made every room feel lovely.
Or staying up on Thursday nights with friends, because we only had part-time work schedules and late morning classes, we didn't have children and certainly didn't have a lot of responsibility, but we loved Jesus and loved each other and loved omelets at Jim's at 2 o'clock in the morning.
But whenever life has been still, I've waited impatiently for it to change. When our days begin to look similar, I look for little ways to change them, all the while feeling like my feet are stuck in the mud. Sometimes I want something and don't exactly know what it is. Some afternoons when John is home, I stuff a notebook and pens and a pile of too many books into my backpack, fling it on me, and fling myself on my bike, and run away. Well, not exactly away, but two miles down the road to Starbucks, where I order myself an overpriced iced coffee with white mocha syrup that I always think will be more satisfying than it is, and find myself a table in the sun, always slanted in the Pacific Northwest sky. This is as far as I can go for now. I intensely crave travel -- wanderlust is what it's called, and I think it's one of the most beautiful words in the English language (I think I will get it tattooed between my shoulder blades someday).
Sometimes I think it's that I wish I had the ability to enjoy things as I did when I was a child. To go on a walk and for that to be the highlight of my day -- the smell of trees and asphalt, the birds' song, the crunch of leaves, the freedom, the slow pace, the steps leading somewhere but going nowhere and being completely okay with that. Walking just to walk. Aimless, with the mind of adventure. Although the journey is short, it is worth it.
The world is so big when you're little. Of course, we're all still pretty small, but why is my corner of the earth not so big anymore? What do I know now that makes me unsatisfied with my backyard, my street, my familiar places?
I have a lot of dreams, I guess you could say. I want to travel, yes, but there are a lot simpler things I want someday that would make me pretty darn happy. I really want chickens and goats and a garden so we can live gently and self-sustainably. I'm not sure exactly how that's going to work, since I struggle to keep my windowsill basil alive, but I have hopes. I want to own a house someday, but not some cookie cutter home. I want a small house, an old stone house with ivy and a front porch, with a lot of rooms for a lot of babies adopted from a lot of different places. I want a room in which to think and create. I want to build a few wells in places that need water. I want to homeschool and sew stuff and write a best-seller and take photographs of birth.
And while I've been working on contentedness these past few years and I'm really happy with where life has brought me so far, I realize that holding on too tightly to these dreams can be holding me back from enjoying the life I have right now. What if I am never a successful photographer? What if I never travel outside this country, or even to other parts of the country? What if I can never live a self-sustainable life? What if I never write a book? What if I never own a house? What if I never have enough to fund a well project? What if I never adopt?
Each of those questions sends my heart to my throat for a minute, and admittedly, tears to my eyes. What if, though? That is a very real question. What if this is as good as it gets?
I can't answer that question. Are my dreams my idols? There is nothing wrong with having dreams, but am I expecting too much out of life? Whatever the correct answer to those questions, whatever your opinion of me, whatever my interpretation of my desires, I know that I need to learn to be content if the answer is: no. You will not get to do those things.
There are six billion people on this planet. Not every one of us gets what we want. Not every one of us gets what we even need. It is hard for me to put some of these things in the same catagory as someone who wants a private jet or a million dollars. But in reality, it's just as selfish of me to idolize my dream of having a garden as it is for someone to idolize money or things.
Spiritually, what could be done to me if I choose contentedness over my desires? What does God want me to do? What has he been asking of me? One things weighs on my heart: water for people who don't have it. If there is one thing I want to do... okay, two things... that would bring water to people, and to bring children without a family into ours. These are things that God has asked me. I can feel it in my bones. They are stitched into me, sewn into my skin, intertwined with John and River and Austen in the workings of my heart.
My human nature asks how. The Spirit tells me wait and see, follow and choose contentment.