I have never been a visionary. I am what one might call an “in the box” kind of girl. I think and function well within “the box” and when the box is taken away, I kind of freak out.
But even us “box thinkers” have dreams.
Some of them are pretty basic… the dream to have a good job, a happy family, a peaceful life… you know, the “American Dream” type of dream.
Some of our dreams are extravagant, secret dreams like uprooting the family and moving to France or the English countryside, completely abandoning all reason and just going for it. Okay, maybe that’s just one of my dreams. But now you have more insight into my mind. I’m a bit of a romantic.
But other dreams are real possibilities and can be scary to pursue because WHAT IF THEY CAME TRUE?!
About 5 years ago I was a small group leader for our Bible study and greatly enjoying leading my ladies in their walks with the Lord. It was a role I was very comfortable in and had no plans on leaving.
One of the leaders of the study approached me in October and asked if I’d be willing to teach the study one day. Um, teach? The whole group of ladies? There were something like 60 women, many of whom were older and much more spiritually mature than I was. The idea was terrifying. I had never taught a big group before. But I said, “yes” anyway.
During the process of preparing the lesson for the day (which I had to come up with entirely on my own) I fell in love with studying God’s word. Not mushy love, but “can’t-live-without-it” love. The kind of love that energized and excited me and made me really want to share what I’d learned with the ladies.
The big day came and… I cried through the WHOLE lesson. Literally the entire 25 minute talk I was crying. Not on purpose, but all the nerves came out in liquid form and that was that. It was rather pathetic because I remember looking into the faces of the ladies I was teaching and many of them were crying too. Gotta love our empathetic hearts, right?
When it was all over, the gal who asked me to teach asked me what I thought about the whole thing. I told her that, tears aside, I loved every minute of it. The preparation, the sharing, the encouraging… I loved it all.
And that was that. I went back to my table leader role and enjoyed the rest of the year.
But in June, after Bible study ended, I was enjoying a rare quiet moment in the garden and whispered a prayer up to God. I said, “Lord, would you allow me to do that again? Would you allow me to teach Your word to the women? And if you want me to do this, would you let me be mentored by our Director of Women’s Ministries so I can learn?”
Well, friends, there are times when I believe God places His dreams for us on our hearts and answers it incredibly specifically so we can be confident in the direction He wants us to go.
Within a few minutes I heard one of the kids call for me from their nap so I promptly went to check my e-mail. (Every minute of kid-free time must be used wisely, you know).
When I opened my inbox I saw the name of the Director of Women’s Ministries. She had sent me an e-mail. In it she wrote:
You’ve been on my mind a lot. I see so much potential in you. I know that God can/will use a woman with your heart and passion. I’d like to be part of your journey, if you’d let me.” (I kept the e-mail because it was such a direct answer to prayer that I didn’t want to ever forget it)
The e-mail proceeded to ask if I’d co-teach with her for the fall study.
I stopped breathing. Had I not *just* asked the Lord for this? I checked my watch. The time I’d uttered the prayer was minutes before she sent the e-mail.
I began to cry and to thank God for His hearing my heart’s desire and answering it. And then I called Paulette (the director).
Over the course of the next 3+ years I had the privilege of dreaming with and learning from one of the best teachers and friends I have ever known. We made plans for me that were awesome. Plans that were part of my secret dream to one day lead women to and in the Lord. Our plans included me one day taking a position of leadership in Women’s Ministries at our church, which would’ve been awesome since I had been there since I was 3 years old and HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?!
I became pretty anchored in our plans and confident in the direction I was headed. I latched on to those dreams and found my identity in them.
And then my husband thought we should try a church closer to our house.
Wait, what?! But that’s not part of the plan! MY PLAN WAS SO GOOD!!!
For several weeks my heart ached. Not just like the, “I’m changing schools and won’t see my old friends” ache from when I moved a bunch when I was young, but the “My family is lost for-e-ver” ache. The one that makes your heart hurt so badly that you wake yourself up crying in the night.
But I knew we were being obedient to the Lord leading us to a new church. I knew it deep in my heart. I just didn’t want to give up my dream.
After all, it was my DREAM. And God had put it there… right?
Fast forward to 9 months later and I can see so much more clearly. God did give me the dream to lead, equip and encourage women. I know that with 100% certainty. But what I did, and I think many of us tend to do, is I created my own ending.
Have you ever done that? Known exactly how God should let you live your life? So much so that you take the reins and ask Him to step aside so you can run wild?
Yeah. That was me.
The thing is, when we try to take the reins from God, He’s going to take them back. And it doesn’t always (or ever) feel good.
My dream wasn’t a bad dream, it just wasn’t God’s dream for me at that time.
God told the prophet Jeremiah this:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Do you know what this means?! I’ll break it down (because that’s what I did for me and it hit me like a Mack Truck):
For I, the God who, when there was nothing, spoke, and created the universe in its entirety, I, the God who made a covenant with one man thousands of years ago and saw it to completion, I KNOW the plans, purposes, designs and intentions I have for you. I didn’t put you on this planet to let you wander. I put you here for reasons I know. My plans are to prosper you, bless you, USE the gifts I gave you for the good of mankind and for My glory. Not to harm you. My intentions for you are VERY. GOOD. My plans are filled with confident hope and an eternal future.
You guys. God doesn’t have dreams for us that fade with the morning sunrise. He. Has. PLANS.
And His plans are very, very good.
So what do we do now? May I encourage you to dream big. Use your gifts and talents. But above all, SEEK FIRST His kingdom. SEEK FIRST the God who spoke you into being and knit you together in your mother’s womb. Draw near to Him as you dream, holding your dreams with an open hand so He can mold them and shape them into His PLANS for your life.
It won’t happen overnight. It’s unlikely that you or I will wake up tomorrow morning and say, “Eureka! Now I know why I’m here!” But if we entrust our hearts and our dreams to the Lord, and follow HIS lead, I guarantee that the end result will be something beyond our wildest imaginings.
So tell me, what do you dream of? What evidence do you see of God’s hand in your dream? I can’t wait to dream big with you!
(Photo credit: Family Christian Books)