Dreams are funny things, some of them are sparked by a single moment, some fade quickly, but some settle into our hearts and grow. I like to think of those long lasting dreams as a way that God communicates His plans for us to our hearts. It reminds me of the Casting Crowns song, Let Me Dream for You. I love the idea of God drawing up plans for us, orchestrating the way our lives intertwine with each other.
I remember praying that God would show me what kind of path He would have my life go down when I was in middle school. About that time, I had just a passing thought that being a missionary sounded cool. That was how it all started. I honestly think that opened ended questions are God's favorite to answer. He's like, "Finally! She doesn't have a long list of things that she wants, but she's actually asking me what I think! We have something to work with now!" And rubs His hands together with a smile on His face. Haha, thats just my ridiculous imagination, so don't quote me on that!
Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yirah (which means "The Lord will provide") To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: "On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided." - Genesis 22:14
A few years after that thought about being a missionary, my youth pastor suggested we go to a summer camp in Waxhaw, NC called JAARs, Jungle Jump Off. The whole camp was mission themed; we would stay in wooden huts on stilts in the woods, have no electricity, and learn all about missions. As you can imagine, there were only a handful of excited youth members, of few girls and boy scouts mostly. But my youth pastor was sure that was where God wanted us to go, so the few of us that were interested packed up and went to camp. It was hot, we brushed our teeth in a water trough with faucets (at least one guy was stationed at night with a flashlight because we saw a copperhead the first day and were a little freaked out that one would get us while we brushed our teeth!), built fires to cook and warm water for showers. I had been camping before, but this was still new for me, our huts didn't have doors so unlike a tent, the bugs came and went as the pleased (thankfully the copperheads didn't). Despite all that, I loved every minute. We got to talk to missionaries who had been working with JAARs and Wycliffe, learn about the complexities of bible translation and get to rough it just a little bit. We actually had to find ways to entertain ourselves without electricity and go to bed when it got dark (lol, this was a highlight for me!). One of the last nights of the week, we ate dinner at a retired missionary's house. During dinner, the couple shared their story of working on one bible translation for over 20 years! They lived among the people group, learned the language ad culture and wrote a bible for those people. It was their life's work and when the man brought out a copy of that bible to show us, I knew it would be one of those moments that I would always be able to recall. I held that bible, and even though I couldn't read it, I could feel the importance of it's existence. The believers in that people group, had waited so long just to be able to read God's word in their language. I had never in my life had to wonder what something says; A. I've been taught how to read, and B. everything around me is in English. Being without the Word of God is a hunger that I have never had to experience, but something that my eyes were opened to that summer.
I came back from that week of camp ready to go! Haha, I even decided that marrying a missionary would speed up the process and I wouldn't have to waste time going to college if I met him before then. The dream in my heart grew, but I also added some flair that I thought would made my life story a little better. I got to high school and realized that with no potential missionary husbands on the horizon, I should probably go to college.
So with guidance from God and my family, I went to Salem College for Interior Design. God did not make it clear to me what He intended to do with Interior Design in missions, but I decided to take the step He laid before me anyway. When I graduated college, my friend and I went out to Yellowstone National Park to work for the summer. Within the first couple of weeks, I had filled out probably ten or more job applications for every mission organization that I had dreamed about working for. Coming back home after three months, I had been denied for every job. I was heartsick! At that point, my dream of working overseas consumed my heart and I wasn't getting to go. Why had God placed a dream within me and let it grow so much to not let me go forward? My confidence in myself faltered and my life got pretty dark. My outlook was grim, and then God gave me one open door for a design job that I didn't really want and hadn't applied for. But I took it, I really didn't have another option. I wasn't willing, joyful or hopeful about my obedience, in fact I was pretty quiet. I took the job and moved away from my family to be in a city alone, quietly.
Then the women of the town said to Naomi, "Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Isreal." - Ruth 4:14
God taught me a lot that year and a half of me being still and quiet. Mainly, that my voice isn't what needs to be heard; His voice is the reason for living a mission focused life. It's not about me being adventurous, its not about being a "great" christian, it's only about bringing glory to God, and that has to be what I'm about. The other thing I had to learn was to find contentment and joy in any circumstance. Although I moved to a new city with a poor attitude, God gave me so much there! He didn't lead me to a new place to be miserable, He lead me somewhere to show me that no matter what, He is my provider who knows my needs and provides what is required. My boss and coworkers were the biggest blessing; they made work a joy every day and became my family. Living by myself taught me a lot of practical skills, and the new church I started going to got me involved in local mission work right away. My relationship with God grew there and made me learn who missions is all about, God. But He had to silence me with all my glorified dreams and big aspirations to see the whole purpose for the dream He started in my heart 10 years ago.
So, now God has opened the door to go overseas. I am interning with Wycliffe Bible Translators (Dear to my heart since that summer camp 10 years ago!), Specifically with their sing language translation team. The internship will last tow months and I don't currently know where God will lead me after that. One step at a time. But this time, I'm taking this slowly, one small act of faith at a time, knowing that His timing is perfect. I'm done rushing His plan, because frankly I don't write stories as well as He does.
"There your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, you provided for your needy people." Psalm 68:10
If you ever have seasons that you feel God's plan for your future is so far away and unclear, I know your pain. We can literally drive ourselves crazy with not knowing what will happen. But the only thing that accomplishes is stealing the joy that God has granted us today. Disappointment, fear and loneliness can so easily slip into our hearts and entangle our confidence in God's plan for us. My word of encouragement to each of you is that God is so good. Always. There is no need for anything else. In your seasons of waiting, ask God to dream in your heart, be open to hear what grands things He can do. Don't hold yourself back from Him but rather let Him fill you with the identity of being His child. It's really quite a gift.