Just keep dreaming

I have always been a dreamer. Daydreamer, night dreamer, fantasizer, visionary… call it what you want, but I am always dreaming up something that could still happen. Something bigger than what’s in front of me. Somewhere else I could still explore. Someone else I could still meet. Something else I could still experience. 

When I was in college, I dreamed all sorts of dreams. And there’s something about those years that feel so invincible, you’re just certain that all of it is going to happen. I was going to spend my early post-college years traveling. I wanted to see parts of Europe I’d never seen. I wanted to go to New Zealand on my own Bilbo Baggins-esque adventure. I wanted to go to South America and hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

I didn’t care if anyone joined me — I was going to explore places I’d never been. I wanted to get lost in uncharted territory. I wanted to meet strangers and hear the sounds, smell the smells, and taste the tastes of cultures unknown to me.

I’d eventually move back to Nashville and chase a dream of starting a publication I’d been dreaming about for years, live with friends and work whatever part-time job I had to work to keep writing and see this one particular dream come true. I would one day write a best seller or two, and continue to travel, speaking to thousands.

Then something happens as you get older. Life happens, I suppose. I fell in love with my best friend and I put on a white dress on a really hot day in June, gathered all the people I love the most and threw a huge party in a field as we said “I do.” And then we began a whole different adventure together.

He’s a dreamer, too, and his dreams were taking him to Texas and eventually somewhere else to plant a church, and so I jumped on board and here we are two years later, dreaming of our future together. We’re dreaming of revival in Utah, we’re dreaming of raising a family of little church planters, we’re dreaming of the adventures we want to go on together one day.

I’m learning in these years of my life that God is really into interrupting my plans. But here’s the thing about those interruptions: we tend to believe a lie that He wants to come in and take our big dreams and drag us back down to reality, forcing on us a more “realistic” future. I tend to think that surely God, the creator of fun, can’t actually have a more fun, more outrageous, more wild and exciting adventure for me than the one I’d planned for myself?

But you know what this season of my life is teaching me? His way is so much better. His reality is so much bigger than my reality, so “dragging me down to reality” isn’t what He’s doing. He’s pulling me up to a better one. The one He made for me. The one I could never even scratch the surface of if I didn’t live a life yielded to His will.

In the fall of my junior year of college, one of my roommates’ friends had just gotten back from the World Race. He’d spent a year traveling, sharing the gospel and loving on people all over the world. He was kind of being a nomad for a few weeks, visiting old friends, and he crashed on our couch for a week or so.

Noland and I were dating at the time, and we were in that “I never want to be away from you” stage, so I was hardly home, and I didn’t really get to know this guy much while he was staying at our house. But when he left a week or two later, he left me a letter. It was just a little something he’d felt like God was highlighting about me when he was praying one morning, and he wanted to share it with me.

Three and a half years later, I still have that letter, and I found it in a box just yesterday when I was looking for something else. I stood jaw-dropped and misty eyed in my living room as I read through it, realizing how true these words from God were for the years of my life that would follow my receiving this letter.

He said he pictured a waterfall as he prayed for me, falling right in the middle of an open plain, a place where a waterfall has no business being but it’s there anyway. He said he felt like God was speaking to the fact that my voice is going to come with power to bring change and new life to the most unlikely places.

He said he pictured me standing there next to it, wearing combat boots. I laughed at this because my favorite pair of boots are the combat boots Noland got me for Christmas last year. He said the boots reminded him of the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6. “And as shoes for your feet, put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”

He said he kept hearing the phrase, “Share the message. Share my love.” And as I read these words again yesterday tears streamed down my face, because there was that sweet, thoughtful God of mine, still speaking into the deepest dreams on my heart of the stories I want to tell one day.

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And in the last few years, God has been putting all the puzzle pieces together, slowly laying the cobblestone path of life that Noland and I stroll down together, enjoying His presence and enjoying each other, and letting Him show us the way. 

I never could have known how it all would have played out from then until now. That God would invite us to plant the waterfall of life that is His Church right in the middle of a desert valley, Salt Lake City, Utah. That He would even be so silly and thoughtful as to get me a pair of combat boots that I love, a reminder every time I put them on that He has planted my feet firmly in the gospel of peace, ready for whatever is next, armed with all that He’s been building in me in these years of walking with Him.

He’s been teaching me this year about how to dream with Him. He’s put dreams on my heart that weren’t there before, and He’s invited me in to fight for them alongside Him. And yesterday, revisiting this letter from college, He reminded me that it’s worth it. That the promises He speaks forth are true, and that His way is perfect, and that it won’t look the way I thought it would, but it will be so much better. So much more complete. So much more whole.

It will still be an adventure. I’ll still see places I’ve never seen and go places I’ve never gone. I’ll do it here in my physical being, and I’ll do it in the spirit, too. That’s the thing about walking with God. We enter a whole other dimension of reality, and our adventures are multiplied.

And you know, I still believe in all those same dreams I mentioned earlier. I believe in the promise of what God wants to do with me as a storyteller. I believe in the dream of the publication I’ve wanted to start for years. I believe He holds those dreams in His hands and He knows exactly how, when, and where they’ll come to fruition. He knows. He’s God. All I have to do is keep saying yes.

Thank you, God, that your ways are higher than my ways and your thoughts higher than my thoughts. Thank you that your word goes out from your mouth like rain that covers the earth, not returning void but watering what you’ve planted and bringing forth life, and that it will accomplish all of that which you’ve purposed. [Isaiah 55:8-11]

Thank you that your way is perfect and your word is true. Thank you that you equip me with strength, and set my feet secure on the heights with you. Thank you that you train my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. That your word proves true and it’s a shield for all those who take refuge in you. [Psalm 18:30-34]

Let me be a dreamer of your dreams. A heart yielded to your will. A life given to whatever you lay before me. It’s just worth it.

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When The Fog Lifts

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The mark of this season seems to be newness.

Newness of life means new places of risk, which means new places of letting go, which means new places of trust. The recovering independent-spirited-middle-child in me wants to fight it … and the thrill-seeking adventure lover in me kind of loves it.

I’m not sure how the month of August went by so fast, but alas, it has come and gone. Along with half of September. I hope none of you blinked, because you probably missed it. As I was sifting through my journal a couple of weeks ago, I saw this pattern of God doing new things in every area of my life.

New things in my marriage. New things in my friendships. New things in my family. New things in my career. New things in our journey to church plant.

I don’t know if everyone else’s life is like mine, but it seems like when it rains, it pours. Good or bad, once one new thing happens, it seems like it penetrates every little place of my life.

It felt like in the first half of 2013, we were just following a pace car, knowing that the true acceleration point was coming, but still able to just get ready and set. And now, all of a sudden, everything is moving fast and it feels like we’re covering a lot of ground in a little bit of time.

Honestly, at times it feels like we’re moving so fast that everything around us is just a blur. It feels like maybe eventually the ride will stop and we’ll get out and look back and realize we came a long way since the last time we saw things clearly.

And maybe that’s the trusting part of this journey — knowing that when I can’t see, God can, and He is directing my steps anyway, so why am I so concerned with knowing where we’re going all the time?

This past weekend I took a really short trip to Charlotte to surprise my best friend at her engagement party. The last few months have been a bittersweet journey of learning that the day is coming when her husband steps in as best friend and I take the next place in line in her life. In a strange sort of way I feel like learning to release her must be a tiny glimpse of what parenthood feels like.

I think the hardest part, if I’m honest, is that the more I see God doing new things all around me, the more I can’t figure out how it will all fit together. It seems like all the paths I thought were supposed to go to one place are diverging into all different directions.

But He said it would be good. He said he was working all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

This is a promise, right?

So maybe listening to His voice doesn’t always require understanding. Maybe this is what He means when He says it’s the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search them out. (Proverbs 25:2) 

Back in January, I felt like my year was off to a foggy beginning, and what time has shown is that this was the grace and favor of God on my life to conceal things for a time. And now the fog is lifting, and things are looking different than I thought they would. I remembered that in January I also felt like God said this would be a year of new perspective.

So I boarded a plane back to Texas on Monday morning at 6 a.m., and as we took off, I could see the sun rising behind Charlotte, backlighting the skyline so that I could just see a silhouette of the city. A sweet prophetic picture of the dawning of a new season, where we can vaguely see the outline but are not yet able to see the details.

And a little bit later, in the air and flying over who knows where, I looked down through a layer of hazy, translucent clouds. I could see roads crossing, separating and coming together. I could see a river winding in and through all of it.

It reminded me that when we’re on the road, we can’t see everything. We see the fork in the road right in front of us, but we don’t see the crossroads that happens miles later.

This aerial view was a sweet reminder that it’s all part of a bigger picture. Sometimes our paths cross, and other times they don’t. Sometimes we’re on a winding road and other times we’re on the fast track to the next place. But He is the river of life that winds through it all.

My job is to keep dreaming with God, but He is the Dream Weaver. As I learn to surrender and submit each little dream thread to Him, what I can’t see is that He’s weaving it all together into something beautiful.

Suddenly with this perspective, letting go is a lot easier. I’m not sure when I’ll get to know in full what God is doing with these things I hand over to Him, but it’s OK. I’ll see the fruit of it later when the fog lifts.

Four words that lit the path forever

There’s something about a long drive. The way it quiets your mind, the way it frees you of distraction, the way it opens the doors of exploration and adventure — I tend to have my best God moments on long drives with Him. Maybe it’s the spacious places and less noise … it just seems like I hear him more clearly.

Last week we were having our day off in Uganda, and we left early one morning to head out for a safari. We left when it was still dark, and as we drove, I watched the sun rise. If you’ve never seen an African sunrise, go ahead and add that one to your bucket list. It was like the opening scene of Lion King, only it was in real life and in colors that only Heaven can produce. 

We must have been driving west, because the sun was rising almost directly behind us as we drove. As I watched the light slowly fill the space around us, I started thinking, “isn’t it crazy that a light from way back behind us is lighting the path in front of us as far as the eye can see?” And all God said was “let there be light” all those years ago, and this is the light that’s been shining ever since.

Four words from the mouth of the Creator lit our paths forever.

If this is the power of the words spoken by God, why don’t I treat everything He speaks this way? That the words He spoke “way back there” … are still lighting my path all the way to the horizon? 

I began to recall His promises, the words He’s spoken over my life and the dreams He’s placed in my heart. And just as I was remembering these things, it was as if time slowed and everything froze for a few seconds. Right there out the window on the Ugandan roadside as we passed by, stood about ten sunflower stalks, just waving at me. My favorite flower. A love sign from the God who sees me. 

And in this moment frozen in time, I hear Him whisper, “I haven’t forgotten you. I delight to delight you. My promises are still lighting your path.”

Suddenly those words of the Psalmist I’ve known my whole life have new meaning. His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Every. Single. Word.

So I keep hoping, because I know that a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12) I keep exploring for the concealed matters of God, because I know it’s the glory of kings to search them out. (Prov. 25:2)

And I know there’s new mercies for me every morning, and every morning a new sunrise to light a new path. Each path leads to another path, and somehow God knows how they’ll all work together for my good. It’s what He promised. 

And the prophetic words of a friend prayed over me yesterday continue to echo in my heart…

“It’s bigger than you think.”