Do you ever have those seasons where you feel like God has just gone completely dark and left you to fend for yourself? Perhaps that’s a little overdramatic, but I would venture to say that some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
To catch you up (since I haven’t had much to say in the last couple months – really sorry about that) . . . our family relocated to the Nashville area of Tennessee to follow what we strongly believed was a prompting from the Lord. It was not an easy process, but we made the move at the very end of 2016. Now, 3 months in, the boys are thriving in their new school, Stephen is cranking away working his job from home, we are making new friends and getting embedded in a great church community, AND we are getting to watch what will be our new permanent home go up in the lot right next to our rent house. Lots of exciting things going on, and yet there still seems to be some pretty substantial gaps that, quite frankly, throw me into a spiritual, mental, and emotional battle every day.
I fully expected to be settled into a new job well before now and I definitely did NOT expect to be looking at almost 6 months since the last time I was behind a microphone. And yet, here I am. Still without a steady income and still waiting to get to do the thing I love doing the most. The two pieces of my world that I thought were the main reasons the Lord was relocating our family are the only two pieces of this puzzle that are still missing.
Please don’t hear me say that I’ve somehow convinced myself that the Lord has uprooted our lives only to abandon us in the desert. There are plenty of good things happening for us that are exciting. But as it goes sometimes with God-sized plans, all the things that make sense have gone out the window, which for personalities like mine creates a deep sense of unrest and leads to feelings of doubt.
And then the other day as I was processing some of this with my husband, Stephen, it dawned on me that this place is somewhere I’ve been before and had just tucked away in those dark corners of my memory.
Back in August of 2003, I was fresh out of college and working for an international women’s ministry. It had been a tough 8 months and so I decided to take a day to spend some time in solitude with the Lord. I gathered up my Bible, a notepad, a couple books, and my iPod then headed out to a park. One of the books was this short-read called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. It’s the cutest little thing that at first glance can be very unassuming, but in fact packs a gut punch that will knock you to your knees if given the opportunity.
It’s written in two parts. The first half is a modern-day parable about a dreamer named Ordinary who lives in the Land of Familiar and decides to leave his Comfort Zone and pursue a Big Dream that the Dream Giver had given him. He encounters numerous obstacles and opposition but eventually reaches Sanctuary, where the Dream Giver asks the unthinkable of Ordinary . . . to give his dream back.
What? Can you imagine the struggle?
“So you give me this dream, tell me to leave everything I know to chase it, and send me through all those obstacles, only to ask me to give it back?”
Nevertheless, Ordinary makes the choice to hand it back over. The Dream Giver took back his dream and what He did next changed everything for Ordinary. He returned the dream back to Ordinary, except now it was bigger and greater. Now it was part of something more magnificent than he could’ve ever imagined.
In the second half of the book, Wilkinson goes into the full explanation of the parable and what it means for us as believers.
After I finished reading the book and spent some time meditating on the different lessons it held, I felt like the Lord was asking me to do something I’d never really done before. He asked me to write out my own personal dream, in full detail. So I did. I wrote out all my hopes regarding marriage, children, music, and ministry. Then I felt like the Lord was telling me to do something very strange with that piece of paper. He told me to burn it. To light it on fire and watch it disappear.
But having just read the book, I decided I should probably follow this leading and see where it goes. So being fresh out of matchbooks, I grabbed the next best thing . . . the car cigarette lighter. It took a minute but the corner of the paper finally began a very slow smolder. After a little while, I realized that the paper had stopped burning on its own. And all that was left was the very top portion of the page with the words “My Dream” written on it. In that moment, the Lord made clear to me that I have the choice to either go pursue what I think is perfect for me on my own, or give it to Him and let Him do something far better. I folded up that small scrap of paper, with its charred edges, and put it in my Bible at my favorite Psalm (which is 51) so that I knew where I could find it easily in moments of doubt.
Fast-forward a good 4 years. I had moved back to Texas, started working for 121, gotten married, and Bishop, our oldest son, was only about 2 or 3 months old. We were visiting my family for a weekend and had gone to church with them that Sunday morning. In the process of carrying a car seat, a diaper bag, a purse and my Bible, I managed to leave said Bible on top of our vehicle. I of course didn’t realize it until I went to look for it later. By this point, there was no hope of ever finding it. I was incredibly disappointed because that particular Bible had been one that contained years of notes, highlighting, and mementos – including that piece of paper from my day in the park. But life goes on, right?
Fast-forward another 2 years. We’ve had our 2nd son by this point and we are preparing to purchase our first home. We were in the process of packing up our rent house and I decided to go upstairs and clean out our nightstands. I open up the top drawer that is normally full of little things like spare pens, cards from the Stephen and the boys, books, etc . . . I start filling the box I had brought up, just grabbing handfuls of stuff. When the drawer was about empty, I noticed that something had fallen out of my hands during one of the many transfers from drawer to box. I bent down to pick it up. It was a small folded piece of paper. Almost immediately, a cold sweat came over me because I knew what it was before opening it. I unfolded it to confirm. There it was . . . My Dream. How in the world? There’s absolutely no way that this should’ve been in that drawer because I never removed it from my Bible. Not to mention the fact that we had moved more than once since that Bible was lost and so surely I would’ve found it long before now if it had fallen out at some point. I literally collapsed onto the floor and the tears started pouring. For the first time since writing out those hopes and dreams all those years ago, I sat and recounted all that had happened since penning those words. Here I was, married to a wonderful man, raising up two precious boys that had been entrusted to us, working and serving in worship ministry on a level I never had before, and about to take one of the most “adulty” steps possible – buying a house. Somewhere in the slowness of the process, I had completely missed just how much of my dream had already come to fruition. It’s like the Lord was reminding me, “Girl, I’ve got this! Keep trusting and pressing into Me and I will make it happen. It probably won’t look the way you think it should and in the timing that you think is best. But it will be perfect and believe Me, I’m not even close to done.”
This time, I put that piece of paper in my wallet, just sure this would keep me from ever losing it again. AND YET . . . at some point I got a new wallet and in the process of transferring everything over, I somehow forgot to open whichever tiny little pocket I had tucked it into. So it was gone again.
Now, here we are in 2017. We’re another child into parenting, about to own our 3rd home, nestled into a deeper faith as a result of following God’s call, but I still find myself struggling daily with fear, insecurity, and doubt.
How in the world are we going to be ready to close on our new home if I don’t nail down a job soon? How much longer before I get the chance to use my musical gifts? Is it possible that He’s called us here for me to do something completely different than I’ve ever done before?
So I spent some time meditating on these passages – these gentle yet firm reminders of God’s goodness to His children.
Ephesians 3:14-21 – For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Luke 11:9-13 – And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 12:22-31 – And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
And almost immediately, a peace and rest settled over my spirit, and I thought about that little piece of paper that is probably decomposed in a dump somewhere. I remembered where the Lord has brought us, all the ways He’s filled in the gaps for us, and the times He’s provided down to the last penny for us. And it wasn’t long before a sort of resurrection took place in my heart – a reawakening of a dream that may not be mine, but is greater than anything I could come up with. Do I know what the end game is? No! Do I know how long it will take to get there or what kind of trials are between here and there? No clue! But what I do know is that the author and perfecter of my faith is steering this ship and He will go to the greatest of lengths to protect and provide for His children.
What about you? What dreams have you had to let die? What promises in scripture do you cling to in the process?