I don’t know about y’all, but I have always had a BIG imagination. As a child, I had big plans and I was going places. We never had much money to actually go places, but every time I opened a book, I was able to travel. Books allowed me to imagine myself in all sorts of different environments and professions, and over the years, my dreams grew.
The first thing I remember wanting to be was a mom. I was a little girl who loved baby dolls, so it was no stretch to put myself into that role. I remember going to the thrift store and using my limited allowance to buy baby clothes and a pack of diapers for my dolls. I loved changing them and feeding them and washing them. I even helped a couple of them by biting their fingernails since they couldn’t do it. 😉 Being a mother was my first dream for adulthood.
When I was about 4, I was playing outside while my dad was tinkering with our car. I wanted to “help,” so he let me hand him tools and watch what he was doing. That day, I decided I wanted to be a mechanic. I’m pretty sure I even checked out books from the library about cars. I was serious about doing my research! This dream was abandoned pretty quickly because it wasn’t so much the working on cars that interested me, but it was the time spent with my dad. Today, checking the oil and adding gas is about the extent of my car knowledge.
As I got a little older, my dreams became less flighty and began to take shape.
I had an amazing kindergarten teacher, and she made me love school. I stayed in trouble because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, but she encouraged me to grow. I don’t remember learning to read, I just remember always reading. Instead of keeping me held down on grade level, she kept giving me more challenging books and encouraging me to push myself. At the end of kindergarten, I was on a 4th grade reading level. I remember her taking me around to middle and high school classes and letting me read for the “big kids.” She was always cheering me on, and she made me want to do that too. She planted the seed for the dream of becoming a teacher.
I also had a wonderful teacher for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Every year I moved up, so did she….and I loved it. She showed me the importance of asking questions and investigating why things are the way they are. Why is there dew in the morning? Why do the seasons change? What is a solar eclipse and why do they occur? She made science fun and encouraged my love of history. She made the world seem bigger than our little corner in Georgia. She also was addicted to Coke (the drink, not the drug 😂) at the time, so she kept a cup with ice and a Coke on her desk all the time. We asked her why she could have Coke and we couldn’t. She replied, “Grow up, go to college, and become a teacher. Then you can have Coke at school too.” I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe I will.”
When I hit high school, my dream had changed again. I grew up in a house with one television, so we watched mostly what my dad liked. That meant lots of cop shows. We watched every episode of Law and Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Columbo, and The Commish. My mom also loved Murder, She Wrote and anything Agatha Christie, and I loved watching those things with her. My favorite book series growing up were Nancy Drew and the Mandie books. I ate, slept, and breathed mysteries. Figuring out who was the killer or thief or culprit was my most favorite thing. By the time I was in 10th grade, I had a solid plan to get into Georgia Southern University, major in pre law, graduate and go to law school, pay my dues, and eventually become a judge. That was my big dream. It seems so funny to me now, but I had it all planned out and was taking steps to make my dream a reality.
By the end of 11th grade, God had most assuredly closed that door. He made it very plain to me that this was not His plan for my life. Every time I prayed about it, I heard a resounding, “NO.”
I was a little lost for a while. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I applied to a college in North Carolina with the intention of taking some core classes until I made up my mind what I should do. I was accepted and started making plans for the upcoming fall, and then I got a letter that I hadn’t received the financial aid I needed to make it possible. Now what? I had just graduated high school…and now I had no plans. It was too late to be able to start college anywhere in the fall. All my plans had just slipped through my fingers.
I prayed and prayed and decided education was the field I needed to pursue. I applied to North Greenville’s Education program and intended to start in January. A few weeks later, I went to summer camp. It was there God made it crystal clear that He wanted me to go to Georgia Baptist College and get my degree in Elementary Education.
When I got home from camp, I had a letter from North Greenville informing me that I had not only been accepted, but that I qualified for financial aid and a significant scholarship for education students. I could have gone to college for next to nothing. I won’t lie, it was tempting, but God had shown me what I needed to do. I took a year off and started GBC the next fall. In addition to all the lessons I was learning inside and outside the classroom, a year and a half later, my husband showed up.
How different my life would look had God not let those dreams die.
We’re told to chase our dreams and don’t let anything stand in our way. We’re told anything is possible if we believe and work hard enough. We grow up believing these cliche statements, but they’re just not true.
My husband and I have some dreams for our home, our church, our families. We should dream, and dream big. There’s room for us to do so, but we also have to be grounded and realize that God’s plans are bigger than ours, and sometimes our dreams must die so His plans for us can come alive.
As someone who has spent the last 30 years holding tightly to an unfulfilled dream, I’m here to tell you that I get it. Experiencing a dream death is a painful, gut-wrenching thing. It truly does feel like a death and we grieve and hurt and cry.
When I was a teenager and went through all that with my college and career dreams, I thought my world was coming to an end. (I was also a bit of a dramatic, angsty teenage girl, but that’s neither here nor there.) We’re left with a hole and a big question mark and a handful of ashes.
Thankfully, death is not the end of all things.
We who belong to Christ know that death is only the beginning. He brings life out of death, beauty out of ashes.
Just as a seed must be planted and die for life to spring forth, the same is often true for our dreams.
If we hold our dreams in a death grip, we’ll never desire the better thing God has planned for us. Sometimes our dreams must die for Him to give us the life He wants us to have…but we are never disappointed.
It’s hard to imagine anything better than our own dreams, but I promise you that God’s plans are better.
I’m reminded of a song I’ve known and loved since high school. I’ve held on to it through some dark days, and it’s always been true:
“The dreams of my childhood have all fallen through. I guess I built my castles on the sand, but every dream in Jesus has come true because of Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand.
I’ve never been disappointed in Jesus. Doubts should never cross my mind, for in Him, no fault I find. I’ve been discouraged with some family, forsaken by some friends, but I’ve never been disappointed in Him.”
I know it hurts when dreams die, but just hold on. That is never the end of the story. You’ll be amazed at what beauty can come from the death of a dream. 💜