As a first-time homebuyer in Charlotte, North Carolina in the summer of 2001, I wrote for a weekly newspaper and had finally reached the point in my career where my income solely came from writing. While I enjoyed my job, deep down inside I knew there was more for me. I just didn’t know what or where.
I was covering a weekend conference on the state of our nation when I met and interviewed the head of a Washington DC think tank. There was nothing unique about the interview. It was just like all the other interviews I’d conducted on nonprofit organizations. But what came afterward was something I will never forget.
Once we’d finished, she looked at me and very pointedly asked, “Would you like a job?”
I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. Did she just offer me a job? She was looking for a research fellow to write on women’s issues in our nation’s capital and she really wanted a journalist, someone who could ask the hard questions. Did I ask her any hard questions? I managed to say yes, I would love to hear more about the position and she promised to keep in touch. As I walked out to my car, I had this overwhelming sense of God’s presence and inside my heart I heard, ‘You’re going.’
It was just two words. Two little words. I knew very little about this organization. I had yet to be interviewed. But I knew without a doubt I was going to Washington DC. I was beyond excited. This was the more I’d been hoping for!
But then 9/11 happened and as our country reeled from the terrorist attack that changed America forever, the economy plunged and a hiring freeze was imposed upon the think tank. Budgets were cut and all new hires were pushed to the nebulous future.
So what do you do when you want to be somewhere else, when you know that somewhere else is where you’re destined to be, but you’ve been placed on a very long hold? When you feel like your life was just rerouted indefinitely? I didn’t know what to do. So I asked God for a coloring book and some crayons.
As a child, our family would pack up the station wagon and hit the road to go on vacation or visit friends and family. Inevitably, not long into our trip, my sisters and I would chorus from the back seat, “How much longer?” Our parents would suggest games and pass out coloring books and crayons. Coloring never shortened the length of our trip, but it gave me a way to enjoy the time so I wouldn’t be fixated on how long it took to get to our destination.
I needed a diversion. Something to take my mind off my wait. Things became difficult at work and I knew deep down inside, God was building character in me to match whatever assignment He had for me in DC. I felt like I was walking around in a dollhouse, only that, unlike Alice in Wonderland, I had not shrunk in size. I kept bumping my head and multiplying bruises. I needed a diversion.
So I started to pack. I didn’t know how long the wait would be, but at some point, I would need to pack. So why not start now? I told no one about my plans to work in DC. I just kept packing all the nonessentials. And you know what? It helped. A lot.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a difficult season of life. We don’t want to be there but for reasons unbeknownst to us, we must endure the season until we make it through to the other side. Hindsight is always 20/20. We live and learn. We persevere. We grow stronger. We build character.
But when that difficult season weighs you down with grief and sorrow, there are times you need a diversion. Times you need to think about or do something that fills your heart with hope. Times you need a coloring book and some crayons.
I am in another difficult season of life. This September marks seven years since I moved in with my parents to be a caregiver for my Father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004. I don’t regret my decision for a minute. When I worked in DC, I saw my family maybe twice a year. Now, I have breakfast with them every day. I wouldn’t trade this time with them for anything.
But as much as I enjoy spending time with my family, there is no escaping the fact that Alzheimer’s is slowly stealing away pieces of my Father. I need a diversion. I need to think about or do something that fills my heart with hope.
So I came up with the blessing box. Anytime I find something I like for my next home, like a nice framed print, clock or basket, I buy it and put it in the blessing box. Then, when I eventually move out of my parents’ house, I’ll have a box full of things to decorate my new home. It’ll feel like Christmas morning. Once I fill up a box, I start another, and I don’t put everything in a blessing box. I leave out a few new things to enjoy now, like an inviting beach print and a retro phone I found at a yard sale last year.
Maybe you’re in a rough spot and everything in your world is difficult. Maybe you feel so consumed with these challenges that you need to step back, take a deep breath and find a diversion. You could take a class like painting, jewelry-making, sewing or cooking. If you’re a movie buff, you could mark off one day each week and catch the latest film or rent something you’ve never seen to give yourself a 2-hour escape. Plan a trip with your family or friends ~ even if it’s a year or two in advance ~ and start researching your destination. Whatever it is you love to do, carve out time to do it so your heart can be filled with hope. If you can somehow attach it to the future, that’s even better.
After all, everyone needs a coloring book and crayons once in a while.