The Little Girl With Big Dreams
When I was very young, I had numerous big dreams about how my life would develop. Namely, they were this: I would get married young (probably sometime between 18 and 20); I would have lots and lots of boisterous, happy kids (the more, the better); I would become a published, best-selling author of amazing fiction, and of inspirational and books for Christian women, leading to appearances as a public speaker; and, when I was in my twilight years, I would help women facing unplanned pregnancies to find their hope in Christ.
So how have my dreams developed into reality?
The Little Dream That God Made Big
At 19, with nary a prospective suitor in sight, and while pursuing an online degree, I began training to become a client advocate at a crisis pregnancy center. By the time I realized that I was training to be the peer counselor who personally meets with women facing unplanned pregnancies, and who helps them to explore their options and recognize the importance of the new life inside them, I was already committed and was too shy to back out. But I was terrified. I was nineteen! What did I know about pregnancy and all that accompanied it? How could I guide women through a crisis point in their lives? Why didn’t God make me wait a few decades until I had some experience?
Six-and-a-half years later, I laugh at my panic. The necessary qualification for this job is not experience, but love. I genuinely love my God and I genuinely love women and their children. I have guided women both younger and much older than me, through the process of pregnancy, through the transition to motherhood, and through the training of their toddlers. I’ve watched God pour new and abundant life into wounded hearts and I’ve watched children I’ve known from the womb grow into lively toddlers. I’ve also cried with women who regret an abortion decision that they can’t take back, or with those who have miscarried babies they have just begun to bond with.
God has grown me through my clients and through my co-workers in unimaginable ways. I’m so glad He didn’t make me wait. This is nothing like I dreamed, and even though it is so much harder, it is also so much better.
The Big Dream That God Delayed
Now in my early 20s and a holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, I looked out hopefully for my opportunity to begin a family of my own. And that’s when it happened: My younger sister got engaged.
My naïve plan had always assumed that, as I was the oldest daughter and the most obviously eligible, I would marry first. Now, I wrestled through conflicting emotions: joy for my sister, grief at letting her go, devastation for my own ruined dream, doubts about my worth, anger that I had no hope of marrying soon thereafter, and fear for my future.
That time in my life was difficult, but it was beautiful too. I saw God and singleness and relationships and my life as I had never seen them before, and the bitter-sweetness pierced my soul. This new insight contributed to the final, exultant chapter of my book Ready For Him Today, and continued to transform my life as my sister moved toward marriage. I can honestly say I am glad God made me wait, because my singleness also gave me the time to make certain dreams reality, and to process through some difficult, but important, changes in my life—as you will see.
The Big Dream That Came True
A few months before my sister’s wedding, one childhood dream came true: I became the published author of Ready For Him Today, a book for single Christian women about faith, relationships, purity, and readiness. Since then, my book has had modest sales, mostly among family, friends, or friends-of-friends. I have released several fiction works since then, and received warm and enthusiastic reviews, which I hope is a sign of more good things to come.
Successful author? That depends on your definition. I currently make my income as an administrative assistant at a local office, not as a writer. Writing requires more work and persistence than I have ever put into any other pursuit, with little immediate pay-off. You won’t find me at #1 on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and no one is making a movie of my book. I’m not a famous Christian speaker, and I still feel self-conscious about my craft.
But guess what? I love writing. I wake up every morning excited about the writing projects in front of me. I am delighted when my co-worker and friend at the pregnancy center says, “Oh, honey, you have such a gift. That story almost made me cry, it was so sweet.” I blossom when my sister tells me, “You’re one of my favorite authors. Don’t stop writing!” I am thrilled when I have the opportunity to help a student improve in writing. How blessed am I, to have a gift that brings me and others such enjoyment, and that encourages others toward the Lord? Even if I never meet the world’s definition of “success,” I feel that I have succeeded already.
The Dream That Came Disguised as a Curse
A (presently undiagnosed) chronic illness had been creeping upon me for years, but I had ignored it. Late in 2013, just after my sister’s wedding, I finally admitted it: I was very sick. I quit my favorite job (at an educational toy store), turned down multiple opportunities, and whittled my schedule down to the absolute essentials.
I thought I would recover quickly. In reality, I spent the next year fighting my way to a delicate and carefully-maintained balance, which, even now, requires constant vigilance and a slower and more flexible lifestyle than other people live.
The transition to this new life was extremely difficult for me. I felt imprisoned in my own body. I struggled to help friends and family understand what I barely understood myself. The future terrified me. Wasn’t I supposed to be productive? To serve others? Why, then, was that ability removed from me? And who would ever choose a sick wife? How could I care for my future kids if caring for myself was so hard? The fears were—and sometimes still are—enormous.
I am not fully well, and perhaps I may never be, but I know now that my illness is a blessing. When you have very limited energy, you prioritize carefully, and, as a result, you rediscover what is most important to you. What I rediscovered was people. All life is about relationships: first with the Lord, and secondly with others. Scripture emphasizes this over and over. As I made my interactions more intentional, I became deeply thankful for this life of mine. Oh, the depth of relationship that I might have missed! My eyes were opened to the needs of others, to the power of encouraging words, to the compassion of the Christ who loved people so much that He died for them.
If I had the option of repeating my life without my illness, I would choose my life as it is. The compassion, joy, gratitude, and worship that I have learned through my pain is infinitely worth it.
THe Dream That God Delayed--Again
Last autumn, it became clear to me that another younger sister was on a journey toward marriage. All the feelings that I thought I’d put to rest returned, in the same tangle of joy for her and frustration for me, all of it more intense than ever before. I would love to say that I’m a woman who accepts hope deferred with saintly serenity. Honestly, I am not that woman.
The Best Dream Made Real
What I am, however, is a woman whom God has given eyes to see what so many miss. I recently returned from a two-week trip to stay with my best friend who has just had her first baby. All of that beautiful fellowship and sharing was made possible because I have the flexibility of a single woman. While gone from my family for those two weeks, I also recalled how much I love each parent and sibling, how much joy my job and my hobbies bring me—in short, how much I love my life!
Sure, I still struggle with my illness, my singleness, my difficulties. But even in the midst of those struggles, I see the amazing opportunities that those things have made possible, and the unique beauties that they have revealed.
So I will thank God for the mornings I can run up the stairs two at a time, because He has given me strong legs; and I will thank God for the days I can’t, because they remind me of the loving Father I rely upon.
So I will be a bridesmaid in another sister’s wedding, rejoicing for her happiness, and rejoicing also that I have a little longer to be a daughter, a sister, and a friend before I am a wife.
So I will take another broken dream and hope deferred, and wait expectantly for my Father to reveal the new and better dream that He has made possible through the breaking of the old one.
I’m not just “making the best of it.” I already have the best, and it makes me so unbelievably happy! Oh, my God is so good, and I love Him so much!
As funny as it sounds, I am intensely grateful for gratitude. There was a time in my life when I whined about a blessing because it wasn’t the one I expected. Now God has opened my eyes to see it, and I delight in it!
Nothing in my life has gone the way I expected. I’m so glad! The life I have is more rich, more powerful, more full than the one I thought I wanted. When I am old and have lived out my life, I know I will never regret missing the life I could have had. The life I have been given is more than enough for me.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.