“With your support, the dream will continue to be a reality…and so much more! Just when we think that we’ve seen everything there is to see, God opens our eyes, and shows us an even bigger picture.”
These were some of the first words I read on the Faithwriters website on August 29, 2005. How would anyone know about the sequence of events leading up to the excitement of finding this quote on your website unless I shared the following story?
I was at the point of giving up on many things including the pursuit of publishing anything I had ever written, which up to that time had been a non-fiction book, a children’s book, essays and poetry.
About a month ago, after a fitful night of tossing and turning in pain, I dragged my limp body over to my computer to open up my morning e-mail. My sister had sent an excerpt from the “Chicken Soup” series. A successful writer, told her story of how she had lived down the reputation and ridicule of her classmates and discouraging teachers, from elementary school on up. They nearly convinced her that she was never going to write right. It told how she never gave up and she kept up her writing as fast as she was being published. My sister’s “apples of gold” advice was, “Jan, NEVER let anyone, friend, relative, or acquaintance become a “dream killer!”
The next hour brought a phone call from a good friend encouraging me to get my writing “out there.” With a dejected, frustrated sigh I mustered up the words, “But Where?” She told me to go online and look for a listing of Christian magazines. Hanging up the phone with my cup of coffee in hand, I contemplated the events of the morning, consoling my mind with the meditations of the Author of all authors, and I came to this conclusion. I wrote down these thoughts just before I found your website:
One builds dreams emanating from a vision formed in the mind. The bright, intriguing pieces of the puzzle of life each come down from the hand of God. One by one we see all the pieces fitting together and with great anticipation we begin to think we see the bigger picture of our circumstances. Then as the pieces are handed down they begin to take on a darker nature, but still fit together. Unexpected and unexplained images begin to appear and you say:
“Wait a minute God. This is not the picture I had in mind. This wasn’t in my dream.”
And he whispers back,
“Not thy will, but MY will be done.”
How many times does this happen to believers? I venture to say as often a person leans on his own understanding, not applying Proverbs 3: 5, 6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (NIV)
I found myself building a dream through a long, cold, gray Michigan winter. I had received a wedding invitation from one of my former students, who was now a beautiful grown woman living in Colorado Springs. There was no way I was going to miss out on that spring wedding; not with my brother and his family living right there and my son, his wife and my precious grandson living just north of Denver. My intentions were to look for jobs while I was out there.
It happened the first day at my brother’s home in Woodland Park just north of Colorado Springs. He had built his home in the mountains where the first thing you saw in the morning was the mist floating away leaving a clear picture of the most awesome piece of God’s grandeur, Pikes Peak. Nestled at the bottom of his hill was a small Christian school that had recently opened. I turned into the school on my walk and requested an application. The night hours were spent filling out the many pages of my application and getting my resume and credentials in order to return in the morning. I received an informal interview with the principal and another one with a supervisor in the Springs before I left. Both left me with great hope that I would be successful in my pursuit and the puzzle pieces just all seemed to fit together.
I left with the reassurance that I would be contacted. Not a problem! I would carry out my plan of spending the summer in southern Indiana helping my sister set up a thrift shop in her church annex. Much cleaning and painting needed to be done before anything could be set up. The busyness helped the days breeze by. However, the horrendously hot, humid days of high 90’s and over 100-degree temperatures eventually took its toll. The days became as long as the walk down the steep, rolling hill of parched grass, only to find there was nothing for me from Colorado. Now nearing the end of my stay, my dream began to fade and the vision I had all but evaporated like the water hitting the hot cement on the driveway. In fact, in late July my work came to an abrupt halt.
One morning as I opened the refrigerator door, a stabbing pain wrenched my neck. I knew instantly that this was no ordinary pain, or spasm. It was something I had felt 15 years ago. A doctor appointment was quickly made and an MRI was set up immediately.
I was called the evening of my MRI and told that it was as I had suspected. A large herniated disk of the C-3, C-4 vertebrae had shown its ugly face. Although it was rare to have this particular disk rupture, it was a bit more serious as it was the cervical bones at the base of the skull holding up my head and the bulge was pressing on my spinal cord. I was thankful it had not reached a paralysis stage like the last one had, but it needed immediate attention. Needless to say I was packed up and ready to be chauffeured back to Michigan to see my neurosurgeon and prepare for surgery.
Not only did these dark pieces prevent me from moving to Colorado, but the long recovery would eliminate any chance of a full-time teaching position anywhere. My
income would eventually have to come from substitute teaching and tutoring. I was left with the inability to see any part of the “bigger picture.” My faith was badly shaken, and my body, mind and soul were weakened. The only thing I did not lose was hope.
Even now after surgery I don’t understand all the ramifications of the whats and whys of this story. But for some reason it doesn’t matter. The lessons learned have been invaluable! Although my life has been a, “Hi, I must be one of Job’s daughters,” and involved has been much pain, trials and twists. Looking back, God has shown Himself to be faithful and His promises to be true. He has never left or forsaken me and there has always been a larger picture involved in whatever has happened, though it could not be revealed during those rough times. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned was the application of James 4:13-15:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, do you not even know what will happen tomorrow? What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)
Does this mean I must abandon all my dreams? Is God a “dream killer?” I find the opposite to be true. Proverbs 29: 18 states:
“Without a vision the people perish.” (NIV)
My lifetime verse since coming to Christ 35 years ago has never changed. Psalm 37:4 says:
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)
This piece of wisdom is still as true today as when it was written by the psalmist over 2000 years ago. The non-fiction book I wrote of my journey of faith attest well to that fact, but I found the secret is to focus on delighting ourselves with Christ so much that our desires can’t help but line up with His desires for us. Ephesians 3:20-21 pretty well sums it up:
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” (NIV)
I will trust the “bigger picture” to him and the revelation of it all in His perfect timing and in His perfect way!