Dreams Don’t Come True: A Letter to My Seven Year Old Self

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Dear Precious Seven Year Old Girl,

You are magical. Despite the aches of life, you light up at the sight of puppies and relish the thought of running through a wide open field. You have so many dreams. No matter how many times you have felt less-than-worthy, you still dream of a life filled with love-overflowing. You are able to hold onto this peace in the midst of the chaos that is your life because you believe and trust in God. 

You dream of being a mom. Two daughters, right?  You write about them in stories. You name them and think deeply, already, about how much you will love them.

You’ll have them. But, you will raise them alone, in a life riddled with uncertainty.

You think that your life will one day look like a medley of all the best parts of adult life that you see around you. 

It won’t. There will be a white picket fence, but it will crumble. 

You still believe (thanks, Disney) that Prince Charming will rescue you from this life. 

He won’t. 

You see your future as a teacher, who runs the most perfect classroom.

Instead, you will be plagued by constant feelings of imperfection.

You think that you will get married and be married, forever.

Wrong again. You will get married, but it will end in a way that is both painfully slow and terrifying abrupt. 

That’s right, little one, dreams do not come true. As you come to that realization, your faith will waiver. As it waivers, your peace will become fragile, your path will deviate, your legs will wobble, and your heart will fragment.

The truth is that you will feel constantly out-of-place, stuck somewhere between a super-involved, volunteer mom and an over-worked, out-of-touch mom. 

You will build, and the world will tear it down.

You will work hard, and still lose.

You will pray, and it will feel unanswered.

You will tell yourself that you are worthy, and you won’t believe it.

You will be told that you are smart, and you won’t internalize it.

You will be afraid, most of the time. 

Your life will be messy, complicated, and consistently stressful…on the good days.

You dream that God will always care for you. Right now, as you read this letter about your life, that probably feels the least true of any of your beliefs. But, He will. Trust Him.

You see, dear girl, dreams are fantasies that we create to escape the world around us. God’s trust in and plans for us are real, and they are so much better than dreams. Trust Him.

It is true that not all that you build will last, but you will learn to be thankful for the things that don’t work out as much as you are for those that do. Trust Him.

Hard work will not always manifest in the way you envision, but God’s work will always shine through. Soon enough, you will realize that your dreams are shaped by what the world sees in you, but God’s plans are shaped by His knowledge of your heart. And when heart work (God’s work through you) pays off, that hard work will feel almost meaningless. Trust Him.

It is scary to think that you will pray for so many things that will never manifest, but you will take solace and find the most meaningful peace in the relationship you are building with your God even when the two of you don’t agree. Trust Him.

You won’t always feel pretty enough, good enough, smart enough, or really “enough” of anything for this world. But be thankful that you kept praying through what felt like unanswered prayers, because you will be enough for your God and people who seek His glory. Trust Him.

You will live with a lot of fear. Some of that fear will carry over from the life you are living now and you will accumulate plenty more reasons to be afraid as you pass through this world. But, take heart young girl, it is your fear that will fuel your strength. You will be so strong, stronger than any adult you know now, and stronger than any adult should have to be. Every single time you look through your worldly fears with the eyes of a child of God, you will grow stronger, and that strength will make you a person who can feed strength to others in their time of need. Trust Him.

As you may have guessed by now, you will get married right out of college to the nicest guy imaginable and feel like the luckiest girl in the world. You will focus so much on creating that marriage, that picture perfect life that you’ve dreamed of, that you will forget (and even shun) what God has planned for your life. It won’t be until everything in that picturesque life has revealed itself to be only a life-likeness, and is shattered beyond recognition, that you will call out to God again, and He will be there. He will test your faith by sending your best friend, the magical love you deserve, at the most unpredictable time and in the most unorthodox form. Your love will be cloaked in unexpected opinions and unfamiliar life choices, and you won’t have much in common (on the surface). But your love will know God, encourage your love of God, and assist in the cultivation of what God puts on your heart. It definitely won’t be what you expect, it will be more. Trust Him.

You’ll be a single mom to the daughters you now carry on your heart. I won’t lie and tell you that will be an easy life, but your girls will be more spectacular than your little heart can currently comprehend. They will be witty, empathetic, curious, and resilient. They will be the center of your whole world, exactly as you see it now. But, you cannot currently fathom the way that looking at them will make everything else in the world disappear and reveal the face, power and everlasting love of God. Trust Him.

Yes, your life will be messy, complicated, and consistently stressful. The scariest part is that it won’t look anything like the dreams you have now. But fear not, God won’t ever leave you. The mess will be from a life being lived to the fullest with little time for concern for appearances. The complications will arise because you will be so abundantly blessed that you feel incapable of attending to the worldly details. The stress will come for the enormity of opportunity you will be given to follow your heart where God leads it. Trust Him.

You will not be living in the dream, you will be living in the real moments. Real moments are tricky to navigate, saturated with emotion, and almost entirely unpredictable – just as God made them. Trust Him.

Little one, you will forever be magical and you will forever dream. But, if I can offer you any advice, 30 years removed, it is to trust where God leads your heart without an ounce of concern for the path the world dictates to you.  Be you in every way, abandon dreams of certitude and perfection, trust Him in every moment. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

Dreams don’t have to come true. God’s plans are better.

Love,

You, at 37.

-A. Smith 

Just Lift That Foot!

I was cruising down the road today, listening to some 80’s music, singing along at the top of my lungs. 


It was just a good day. 


So, of course, my mind drifted back over the events of my life since High School. I got married, had kids, then got divorced, and became a single mom. I remembered how tough it was, when all my dreams dissolved into a heap of ashes.

 
I remembered trying to navigate divorce court and lawyers. And, enrolling my children in school. Since I homeschooled them, I was concerned about how they would adjust to school. Not to the classes, but to the other kids. Would they make friends? Would they fit in? 


I remembered stepping out into the work force. I was a stay-at-home mom without any marketing skills. It was tough finding decent work! 


I remembered going back to college to finish my degree. I had many sleepless nights, as I worked full-time, went to school, and took care of kids. 


But, I look back now, and yes it was tough and hard and I wasn’t sure I’d make it. 


However, I did! And I didn’t just survive, I thrived. 


God took the ugly ashes of broken dreams and turned them into a beautiful piece of artwork. 


Not all of us became single moms the same way. For some of us, a spouse died. Or maybe we never married. But all of us have had tough days. Tough weeks. Tough years. Broken, shattered dreams, lying around us as ashes accumulate in a fireplace during the winter months. 


But, when we turn to our God, and hand Him the ashes, He begins to do His best work. Our Heavenly Father specializes in creating something beautiful out of nothing. Look at Genesis 1. The world as we know it didn’t exist. It was just a heap of nothingness, floating. God looked at the heap and began to create! And what a world he created. We have deserts, mountains, waterfalls, valley’s, oceans. All for us to enjoy! 


I was reading the story of Gideon. He was just plowing his field, minding his own business, when an angel came to him. “Might hero, the Lord is with you.” I love Gideon’s reply, “Sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened…” In other words, Gideon is completely ignores being called a Mighty Hero and focuses on everything that has happened and wondered what God was going to do about it! 


The angel tells him to “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel.” 


What? God didn’t give some long analogy about why things happened that way. He just told Gideon to go. And not just to go, but to do it with the strength he has. 


Wait a minute! I thought we go on God’s strength! What does it mean go in your strength? 


Well, after praying, I think it means this: God made us and God created us. He made us to be strong and resilient. He made us able to survive many things. However, God knows what strength we have and it’s by faith that we take that first step. But, then the miracle happens. For when we lift our foot, to proceed forward, God’s strength infuses us and strengthens us and causes us to do mighty things! Things we could never accomplish on our things. Yet things that never would’ve been accomplished if we hadn’t lifted out foot and allow God’s strength to meet our strength and form a bond that can conquer everything that comes our way! 


And, as we rise up, 
Even when we don’t want to…
Even when it’s hard…
Even when we have no idea what we’re doing…
Even when we don’t feel strong…

Then, God meets us. He takes those ash heaps and he begins to form a beauty that is strong and passionate and loving and caring. A beauty that comes from deciding to lift a foot and step forward. A beauty that depends on Him and raises these children He has entrusted to us. A beauty that knows God never leaves or forsakes us! 

It’s a happiness that causes you to listen to music from High School, turn up the music, sing out as loud as you can, and look back over the life you’ve lived and see the beauty in God calling to you while you questioned. 

So, lift up those feet out of the ashes, and watch God do His beautiful story in our lives! 
 

Gwendolyn Irene

www.gwendolynirene.com

Daring Adventures of Single Parenthood, A Devotional. https://www.gwendolynirene.com/books/

Sweet Dreams

Do you remember the dreams you had as a little girl? The great things you were going to do? The places you were going to go? People you were going to meet?

As my hard marriage became even harder, my dreams started dying. Little by little, the things I wanted to do slowly drifted away. By the time I went through my very difficult divorce and custody battles, I felt as if I was far, far from the little girl who dreamed big. In her place was a shell of a woman, who had forgotten how to even laugh.

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Bible? He had dreams. Big dreams. And those dreams were so big, that his own brothers wanted him dead! In fact, they went so far as to throw him in a hole and sell him into slavery. But, he eventually became a servant in a big home. Not such a bad gig for someone who's a slave! However, the woman of the house didn't get her way and Joseph ended up in prison, forgotten. In that prison, he still did well. Imagine that! Eventually, Joseph did get out of prison, by interpreting a dream. He saved Egypt from starvation…and in the end, he even saved his own family.

I've read the story of Joseph many times. I've wondered what he thought during all these events. Did he feel like giving up at times? What did he think when wall after wall was erected in front of his dreams?

I may never know the answers to these questions, but there is one thing I can't get past! God never forgets the dreams He has placed inside of us! What seems like eternity to us, is just minutes in heaven's time!

Those dreams are seeds. And seeds have to be buried in order to grow. They may seem dormant, but underneath, where no one can see, things are happening! The dreams are sprouting roots and spreading in the soil. Eventually, they break through to the surface.

I know single moms would never trade their wonderful children! We love them and want to raise them to be amazing adults! But, the hurt and brokenness that brought us to the point of parenting single, seems to have buried with it all the dreams. However, while we are raising our children, God is working on those things that seem lost and gone.

I remember when I started dreaming again. As a young wife, I dreamed of doing a mission trip in the Middle East. After my divorce, I felt that dream was just a figment of my imagination. But, then I was reminded of this quote that I had handing on my wall as a teenager.

"…and all dreams are not false, some are truer than the truest facts…let the dreamer only do the truth of his dream, and one day he will realize all that was worth realizing in it - and a great deal more and better than it contained." (George MacDonald, 1889)

I found a group doing ministry in the Middle East and I started volunteering with them as I could. You know, once a year at their partner meeting. Then, to stuff envelopes for a newsletter. Then, they posted a mission trip to Beirut. No way! Life was crazy! But….I couldn't let this trip go. It just kept stirring inside of me. So, I gave in. I filled out the application. And six months later, I was on a plane to Beirut. And my dream contained so much more than I could've dreamed! I went to Egypt and England just a few weeks ago. All mission trips! All doing things I thought would never happen! Those seeds I thought were dead, sprouted.

What are the dreams you have inside of you? It doesn't have to be a mission trip in the Middle East! Maybe it's opening a coffee shop! Or designing dresses on Etsy! Or planting a big garden and living off the land. Whatever dreams you have are important to God! So, while you're changing diapers and making cookies for the class party, keep smiling. At just the right time, those dreams will start coming true. Just start where you come! Hold onto those sweet dreams, momma!

By Gwendolyn Irene

www.gwendolynirene.com

Daring Adventures of Single Parenthood, A Devotional. https://www.gwendolynirene.com/books/