Returning to Design

Returning to Design

It was as if a ten-year-old had slipped into the classroom. She sounded joyful, but had to pause. Deep breaths, long exhales…and then tears.

Giant Wave curl“You love the sea. You love finding things on the beach, the smell of oil on tugboats, the wheelhouse, watching your Dad work, navigating. You love everything about boats—the engines, hull, decks, galley, cabins, crew, & more.

“You love sailboats. You love going on trips on the sea. The sea is in your blood.”

Her voice was childlike, but also insistent.

Joyful Girl“Remember when you used to play 4-square, baseball, basketball, imaginary games, space adventures, games in the field, fish, build forts, talk about God with friends, sit in the trees, search for pretty rocks?”

She spoke as if she knew her very well. 

iStock_000020791649XSmall“You know everyone’s name in the church. You talk with people others ignore. You know that everyone is special and somehow others have forgotten this. You connect people with others. You know about people because you ask questions. You include people. You like to play board games and other games with family and friends. You feel what others feel. You don’t always know what’s going on or why someone feels good, bad, depressed, etc. But, you can feel it.”

Her words came from that “knowing” place, deep inside. The same way God knows things about us.

uncomplicated love blog post susan d. hill“Your soft heart sees what others sometimes ignore. You see the loneliness in older couples that have lost their families or spouses. You see the person who’s ignored. You also see the details that are overlooked. You see when people are overlooked. You see others grow old and wonder where they went off track in life. You see many people lose a sense of wonder, curiosity, friendliness, and imagination. Keep these things in your heart, even when you grow old.”

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These excerpts came from a letter written by my friend, Julie Lanaker. It was part of a creative writing project I taught called, “Letters to Myself.” Basically you write two letters–and then see what God does with it.

beauty girl cryThe first letter is from your younger self to your older self. Initial reminiscing stirs up joy. It involves going back to youthful days to remember who you were, when life was carefree, unedited, and refreshingly unscripted. A time when you had big ideas and your heart was alive with wonder, hope, and passion.


Many, in the class, recalled who they were as teenagers. Others went back to even younger years. But for some, it was painful. Their childhoods were robbed—their innocence shoved to the side.

There were some joyful surprises. And for most everyone—grieving followed.

The assignment was a risky thing and probably should’ve had a warning label. But I didn’t do that. I shamelessly hoodwinked these ladies into exploring their forgotten places.

Part of uncovering your design is to remember who you were, what you loved, and experiences that made you feel alive—before life trampled those things. Most of us crossed the threshold into adult life, accepting Responsibility and Obligation as permanent escorts. It’s what you do.

take a breakWe marry. We buy a house. We commit our time to a job day after day, to pay bills, serve the church, and contribute to the poor. And then comes the unmatched intensity of giving birth and caring for small children.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all good things. But something is desperately wrong if it siphons life from our hearts. Have we pawned off our hearts under the tyranny of duty? Have we lost our shimmering self, that essence God put in us from the beginning? Maybe.

One day a realization dawns—our hearts have been padlocked in the attic, surviving on bread and water. Or worse. Our heart is already buried and running out of air.

As Curtis and Eldredge said in The Sacred Romance, “Sometimes in the night, when our defenses are down, we still hear it call to us, oh so faintly—a distant whisper.”

Does it feel like an intruder, or does it rouse some deep longing in you?

My aim in this class was to kindle the latter.

And if you are curious as you read this, why not write that letter to yourself. Risk feeling the loss in order to gain something back. Who were you at the beginning of your days? What unique passions, interests, and talents did God design when He made you? Write it as a letter to yourself.


  1. “Our heart is already buried and running out of air.”
    you’ve written a very very powerful description concerning our hearts.
    simply being AWARE of what can happen to them is an important piece of our armor. it’s a great place to start i think. with awareness.
    losing heart is a disaster.
    thanks suze.
    suzee B