The biggest thing for me is that it drives me nuts to sit still and feel like I'm doing nothing to move my life forward. I used to think everyone did that, but more and more I am learning that a lot of people just carry on day after day in their lives without giving much thought to it all. I suppose each person's past would play a great role in how they live out their present and plan for their future. And don't go getting all Biblical at me about planning for the future. I am well aware of the folly of future planning. BUT, I think if your plans are prayed over and made from the desires of your heart and involve the allowance of God to evaporate your plans in an instant, there is nothing wrong with plans. Plans give me something to hang on to. Plans give me a focus. Plans give me something to do. And ironically, plans keep me flexible and able to adapt to whatever God hands me each day.
I have 4 significant life events that were completely out of my control that have contributed to me and my planning.
1. A near death experience in March 1994.
I stopped in to our little local hospital on the way home from lunch one day because I wasn't feeling the greatest. Nothing I could really put my finger on, but I just didn't feel "right". I was looked over by the Dr and declared completely fine and sent on my way. I had recently started the pill (I was getting married in two months) and she figured it was something to do with that. I can only tell you that I wasn't convinced and asked if she would do a blood test (the only explanation for that is God). It wasn't busy and she ordered the test. (Let me also point out that I really had NO symptoms that would indicate I needed a blood test or that I was even sick - no fever, no pain, vitals were normal, etc.) After waiting for about an hour, the Dr returned with another Dr and they asked me if anyone was with me. I said "no", and they suggested I call someone to come and be with me. According to my blood work I had a massive infection, but they didn't know where it was or what kind it was, and I was being admitted. For the rest of that day I was watched round the clock by a collection of nurses, until just after midnight when I lost consciousness and a fever spiked. My appendix had ruptured the previous day and I had been a walking, talking body of toxic waste since then. The next days were two more surgeries in order to save my life and then 2 more weeks in the hospital. When I saw my surgeon for a follow up 6 weeks later he told me if I hadn't asked for that blood test and had been sent home, I would have died in my sleep that night. He had never seen anything like it before.
When all this happened I wasn't married yet and I didn't have children. I had a future that looked exciting, romantic and full of adventure. The promises of the world were before me. My fiance and I had big plans. Almost dying made me realize that I was kept alive for a reason. God had a plan for me and it obviously hadn't been completed yet. What I thought the plan was then is VASTLY different than the plan I would walk over the next 15 years. I had the plan wrong, but the purpose right. God's plan hadn't been fulfilled in me yet.
2. I have a child who lives with a chronic, severe mental illness.
He is my second son and I knew something wasn't right from the time he was about 2 months old. After the loss of my marriage, and moving around the world, he was diagnosed at the age of 3 and hospitalized for the first time at the age of 5. He has been depressed and suicidal for the majority of his 13 years. I can't adequately explain the lack of control I have over 98% of the things that happen in our world because of mental illness. He has the best care and the best medications, but mental illness is still winning. It is impossible to plan for anything, let alone the "future". The uncertainty of life is made very clear when you live along side mental illness. It as a world with very little light, very few people and a lot of despair. It is also financially, mentally and physically exhausting.
This is where I learned that plans are for the weak and faith is for the strong. So my "plans" are my stubbornness. Plans are the last of the fight in me. Don't get me wrong, my faith is strong and I lean heavily on it, but I am an imperfect, fallen person and my plans are sometimes the only thing that keep me moving forward. I know it should be God, but sometimes it is not. My plans have failed to come to fruition many times because of mental illness and every time they fail I am reminded of Jeremiah 29:11-13 "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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord."
So for all of my failed plans, there are the plans that succeed and are truly blessed by God.
3. The loss of all of my "stuff".
I was on an extended trip to Canada with my two boys when my husband called me and announced that he didn't want to be married anymore. I was in Vancouver to seek medical care for our youngest son (he hadn't been diagnosed yet) and my husband was back at home in London, England. The boys and I had our suitcase of clothes with us, but because of the timing of events I was never able to return to England to go through our belongings and every thing I owned was sold or thrown away. Clothes, books, kids toys, photos (baby and wedding) all of our papers, etc. It was the equivalent of losing all your belongings to a natural disaster. My husband dismissed our belongings when he dismissed our family. I never realized how attached to things I was at the time, but it turned out to be a turning point in my faith and in how I lead my life now. It is hard to have all of your worldly possessions at the whim of someone else. I was very angry for a long time.
One of my biggest goals at the moment is to become as possession free as possible. By the time I turn 50, I don't want to own anything beyond the personal things I need on a day to day basis. How does this fit in to planning? I have a dream of getting on a plane the day I turn 50 and not having an attachment in the world except for my sons. I want to see and serve around the world and I want my ties to be to people and experiences, not things. I don't want to be remembered by the things I have acquired. I want to be remembered for the things I have done.
(more on this to come in a future post....)
4. My mother.
I'm not sure if it's fair to call my mother a significant life event, but most of you will understand what I mean. My mom passed away a year ago. We had an interesting and complicated relationship and it was a VERY different experience being her daughter than for other people who were her friend. It's hard to remember that when people talk fondly of my mother and how much they miss her, that they had a good and friendly relationship with her. Here's the thing... as harsh as it is to say, I didn't really have much respect for my mom. I appreciate the things she did for me throughout my life, but I didn't respect her and I never wanted to be like her. My mom let life happen to her. She never fought back against the crap or did anything to make her life better. When she and my dad divorced she became bitter, angry and depressed (all totally natural responses) and she never moved past that.
When she passed away, I was tasked (along with my aunt) to go through her house and get rid of everything. That was the turning point for me and the last push I needed to start down the road I am now on. I was angry cleaning out her house. The amount of waste and selfishness that was in every drawer and closet was overwhelming. I have always fought against my mom and cleaning out her house was the final battle.
My mom has pushed me to my current plans. Because of my mom's lack of plans, I learned how important plans really are. I learned that making a plan and giving direction to your life is part of what will keep you moving in a direction. I learned that plans and a purpose will keep you from sinking and letting life pass you by. I learned that the expression "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans." is a very true statement. My mom made more pointless lists than anyone I know. She was great at writing it down, but seemed to have no ability to carry out any of the plans. She is where I learned that you have to have drive behind your plans. My mom disagreed with the majority of my plans, but if I had listened to her, there are so many things I wouldn't have done. I learned from my mom what can happen to your life if you DON'T have plans.
So, why am I mind mapping? I am mind mapping because I need the illusion of some control in my life. I need to know that I am working towards something. So much of my world is out of my control (and I'm ok with that) that I need to have a purpose that I have some say in. It's ok if none of it works out the way I want, but at least I won't have been sitting idly by watching life out of the window (really it would be being watched out of the car window, because all I do is drive kids to their places...). Ultimately, I want to grow and become a better person. I want to make sure I'm using my gifts and talents in a productive way. I want to learn new things. I want to achieve new things. I want to one day be able to fulfill my real plan - the Jeremiah 29:11 plan.
And that is why I am mind mapping.