When I was young, dreams were easy. I wanted to marry that one boy from the church youth group. I wanted to live in the big city. I wanted a PhD. Later, I wanted (desperately) to have children.
In those days, dreams were like stair steps. One after the other, they fell into place. Some were realized easily, some only after the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, but they were all my dreams. I could take full credit for the dreaming, and I thanked God when my dreams came true.
Then the day when I exhausted my carefully hoarded stash of dreams. I had thought I carried an endless supply. I imagined I was Mary Poppins reaching deep into her carpet bag. But mine was only an ordinary duffel.
I remember it precisely. I sat at my desk with one dream heavy in my belly and another being typed out word by word on the screen of my computer. I was preparing to defend my PhD dissertation. I was preparing to give birth to my third child. That day, I opened my Bible and read these words: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
I knew then that I had come to the end of my own dreams.
I wasn’t unhappy. I had plans, though they were disconcertingly vague. I wasn’t ungrateful, though I was nine-months tired and dissertation stressed. The problem was that I read the phrase desires of your heart but saw only emptiness. I was no longer a dreamer. Had I ever been?
A few months after the baby and only days after graduation, we moved to Florida. There I learned that heart desires are born in God’s own throne room. I also learned that the door to the throne room is usually found in the wilderness.
Florida was my wilderness, my wandering place. It was the place where my own small plans were broken and then burned. And what was revealed in those flames? Of course. Desire.
We Christians profess selflessness (though too often we practice it as badly as anyone might). But in our profession we come to fear desire. Isn’t it wrong to pay such close attention to my own heart? Aren’t desires like sirens tempting me from the Way?
And so, like some foolish Ulysses, we stop up our ears, we tie ourselves to the mast of our ship, and we focus only on our plans. I will do this today. I will do that tomorrow. When always God is calling us to let go of our plans and listen to his voice.
It is so like the beautiful siren song, but it is calling us, not to our destruction, but to life. The abundance of the wide-awake but dreaming life. A life that will look differently for each of us. A life dreamed up for us alone. Dreamed up by Love and planted within us in the form of desire.
It might take getting lost. It might require fire. It might look like a struggle on the deck of a storm-tossed ship. But the thing that is left is worth everything. Every tear. Every question. Every dark, uncertain day.
The thing that is left is a God-breathed, God-given desire. It reveals the self you were made to be. It turns your gaze toward the One who made you.
The realization of this desire is like coming home after a long, uncertain sea voyage. But this is a home you could never have imagined. It is fully beyond your own capacity for dreaming.
I know this is the way of it when I find myself behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Yes, me. The same me who traded the flat fields and cowboy hats of Texas for skyscrapers and snowflakes. Here I am, driving a truck loaded with mushroom compost and baby trees.
Sitting high in my seat, the view through the tunnel of August corn is washed in golden, late-day light. I can just glimpse a far green hill. It is topped by that perfect couple: a white farmhouse and a red barn.
An Amish family clip-clops by behind their horse, and, for a moment, I cannot fathom how I have come to this place. This beautiful, never-before-imagined place.
And that is a heart’s desire. It is a place prepared for you. A place that satisfies your heart like nothing else.
It is a dream come true, though, walking your own way, you would have never dreamed of it at all.
“The kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. … The kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home …”
– Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry
needed this. mulling this over. it satifies me and causes me to wonder at the same time. it makes me feel content and excited at the same time. looking to God to clarify and grow this thought in my heart. thank you for sharing.
Thank you for the comment, Stephanie. It’s so good to know that my own small story can be a seed for someone else’s dreaming.
I’ve spent a good 2-3 years feeling caught between dreams that came true, dreams that have been lost, and feeling like I have no more dreams. Your post gave me a new perspective. Thank you.
You are welcome, Jessica. In my experience, the place of no-more-dreams is a good place to be. It isn’t fun, but the truly beautiful dreaming happens only after we’ve come to the end of ourselves.
This is beautiful Christie and so true. I can just see you in the pickup truck enjoying the drive. I love the Amish Community, too.
Thank you! You should come visit some day. I’d love to show you around.
Just yesterday I wrote in my journal, “I wonder if that thing I desire is really God’s desire,too; and I think it just might be…”. It’s exciting to walk out this line of searching for His heart, and finding it right in yourself. Pondering your words, as they add to the ones I’m already hearing.
What a coincidence, Tresta! Though, of course, there’s no such thing; is there? 🙂
Christie, I was just thinking of you and this journey through Florida to where you are (I know it is much longer, but that is where I was thinking of) today. Pondering my own journey and what the wilderness looks like and what it means to let go, to dream, to – so many things that you worded much better than I. This post is so perfectly timed and fits so well. I can’t really encapsulate where I am, but wandering place fits really well. I loved what you said: “I also learned that the door to the throne room is usually found in the wilderness.” Amen. So enjoy your writings…. they speak so beautifully of this journey of the soul.
Alanna, wouldn’t it be lovely to sit down together and trade stories? If you’re ever back in PA … though, for now, I’m grateful for the internet and the connections it fosters. Thank you for reading. Thank you for responding.
Christie, this is breathtakingly gorgeous. I had chills at the end and had to push away tears rising to the surface (I have too much to do to allow myself that beautiful liberty). When I read you, I often feel we are on tandem journey’s in different places on the map and you put words to what I feel but cannot say, or didn’t even know I was feeling. Like the student in the classroom having an epiphany she didn’t know she needed but it made her feel better, understood. Thank you for this. More people really must find your words, truly.
Thank you, Shelly. Your words are such an encouragement to me. The writing life can be lonely but realizing that your personal story is more universal than you realized? Well, it feels very, very good.
This made me cry. In a good way.
Oh, I’m so glad, Laura. Though, I hope there are more tear-free days ahead for you. At least, of the sad variety.
Christie, this is my first time here and WOW!
Your post reminds me of a story. While he was growing up, my husband spent time with a priest who used to sing a little song. That song only had a few words, but even hearing the story second-hand, the words have stuck with me, “God is a surprise.”
So much evidence all around us – and, as you said, INSIDE us – that God indeed IS a surprise of the nicest kind. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Yes, that.
Awesome words here, friend.
Oh, and anyone who quotes Buechner is a friend of mine. 😉
Thank you, Kelli. And “God is a surprise”? Love that. I have a feeling those words will be sticking with me, too.
Beyond my capacity for dreaming? I so get this. Nashville is my wilderness- a good but confusing place to be. Already the past 3 years have grown me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. And even though I still have dreams, most of them haven’t come to fruition, while unexpected opportunities (dreams I didn’t know were my dreams) have landed squarely in my lap. Loved reading this.
Thank you, Leigh. “Dreams I didn’t know were my dreams.” Yep, that’s it in a nutshell. Blessings to you in the wilderness. May the One who led you there lead you out again to a spacious place.
I’ve had this window open all week long on my laptop, with the intention of sitting down to read it, and yet there hasn’t been five minutes. Now, I’ve read it twice and will be linking to it in my weekend post–
Christie, this is beautiful. Stunning, really. Wow. Thank you for putting such graceful words around something I too have experienced. I am truly grateful for this, for the hope and understanding I feel as I read your story.
Thank you, Kris. I always love your weekend posts. It’s an honor to be included.
And, yes, I think hope is just the right word. It reminds me that, with God, it is never too late for dreams. I think that even when I am old I will not have exhausted God’s good dreams for me.
Blessings to you, my friend!
Good golly, this is lovely, Christie. Thank you so much. I’m slowly learning more of your own story and it is a beautiful, challenging one. (I’ll be in southeastern PA to visit old, old friends in Mechanicsburg the end of September. A 45 year reunion of folks we lived with in Africa when we were babies. :>)
Thank you, Diana. I hope your reunion is a good one – 45 years, what a blessing. I’m quite a bit further south and east even than Mechanicsburg, otherwise I’d try to entice you to Maplehurst for a cup of tea.
Breathtaking post — I need to re-read. Then re-read again. Then maybe again. Thank you!
Thank you, Em! It’s always nice to see your lovely face in my comment queue. 🙂
Thank you Christie for taking time to write. Your words, like eating ice cream, they go down easily and satisfy much. (Hmmmm, where did that come from?)
I’m realizing the more I listen to God, the more I realize the desires He put within me and have truly become mine.
I love writing. After a 1 month blog vacation, my first post goes live tomorrow. Yours is a wonderfully complementing story. I would love to share it with my friends too. Is that okay?
More, more, so much more … are you open to a telephone date???
Thank you, Sue! You are more than welcome to share my story.
I’m so glad you’ll be back to blogging, and I’d love to talk. Let’s definitely set that up over email. I’ll be looking forward to it!
Oh, Christie, this stirs me and makes me want to cry. A lot. Thank you for these beautiful words and the gift of seeing his purposes in unexpected dreams.
e-mail … thanks
Oh, yes – walking my own way – I would not have been able to dream this at all. You explain the journey, the challenges that strip away the veneer the world painted us with – and reveal His plans! What a sweet visit you have given me! Thank you!
only after reding about the Shunamitte woman who at one point said to Elisha “And didn’t I tell you not to reaise my hopes” and reading this post can I laugh and cry at how God is so good at giving us the hopes we may be afraid to seek (the shunammite never asked for a son but God knew), doing with them what He will (even if they need to take a turn or a pause- her son died) and allowing them to grow us (would she ever have voice her fear of hoping and frustration of having her hope raised if her son didn’t die?), and then resurrecting them and breathing new life into them (her son was alive again and lived years and days that i am sure the shunammite thought at some point questioned if he would see).
There truly is something to e said when we come to the end of our plans and take a hold of the plans birthed in God’s heart for our lives. Thanks for sharing!
Ahyana, this is one of my favorite stories, but I hadn’t even considered its relevance here. Laughter and tears – yes, that’s the only response to a God who works in such ways. I’m so glad you stopped by. Thank you for reading. Blessings to you.
My friend, Ahyana forwarded this link to me and encouraged me to read it. Oh how I have had a year or so of situations that have not only challenged my dreams but made me question whether they were worth it. In spite of the challenges faced, I have been reminded of the importance of perseverance, unexplainable joy & peace by a truly awesome God. There have also been wonderful reminders from people, quotes, photographs, etc.
I would like to thank you. You are/ your post is yet another wondeful reminder to continue to dream, hope and believe; not just in anything but in the God who sacrificed His son for me and in myself. The self with a great source within me for “…he that is in me is greater than he that is in the world.” There is a great world but an even greater God!
I’m so glad you stopped by, Stephanie, and so glad you found my words encouraging. God’s dreams for his people are endless and boundless, just like himself. Blessings to you.
Your story touches my heart. Thank you. I am going to read some more here. 🙂
So glad to have you here, Tiffany!
Love this post! You put into words what I’ve felt for so long but couldn’t express. One after another of my plans through college and graduation and early professional life fell apart with something entirely unexpected and amazing waiting for me on the other side. And always in that moment of surprise at how happy I was with the turn of events, I felt God there. All the best things in my life are the ones I didn’t know I wanted.
Wow… I have stumbled onto your blog from Ann Voscamp’s and your words are truly speaking to me. I am in my last semester of my doctorate program, two small little blessings at home, and we are trying for a third. I can not help but think of ‘what’s next?’ After I graduate in December….. Will I continue to work three days a week? Will I start another school program (please no… so burned out), do I study a new language? Do I stop working and stay home? I am bit scared to what I will do…. It’s the first time I won’t have something on the deck (Lord willing a third child shortly after). I pray that God uses this time to have Him speak to me on what he wants me to do. I am forever grateful for all my goals that have been achieved, but what truly is my heart’s desire… Thank you so much for your post, you are a blessing.
God bless…. Meagan
Meagan, thank you for taking the time to write! Your situation sounds so familiar. God be with you and give you peace in the waiting. His plans for you are good.