It was a perfectly harmless lunch until I took a big forkful of salad, and my friend asked, “So, are you living the dream?”
I started chewing slower, trying to digest what she said.
I stumbled through my answer as I mumbled something about sacrificing for my family and that “someday my time will come.”
It was an innocent enough question. I actually appreciated her willingness to cut through the small talk and ask such a personal question. In fact, it may even be commonplace to ask a question like this. After all, it has become a persistent theme in our culture.
“Live the dream!”
“Chase after your dreams!”
What she couldn’t have known was how this question would nag me in the days to come. This conversation took me to a place of contemplation. “Am I living the dream?” “Have I settled?” “Do I even know what my dreams are anymore?”
As I wrestled with these thoughts, my mind went back to a memory from a few years ago:
It was my last evening on a mission trip in Uganda. After a full day at the orphanage, we loaded into the bouncy, stifling bus for the 45-minute drive to the room where we would sleep on cots. . I always loved the bus rides. Uganda is beautiful with her lush gardens and red dusty roads.
Most of our team was quiet that evening, I imagine many of them were feeling what I was feeling … anticipation to get home, heart ache as we left new friends behind. I sat there with my oldest two children as we all tried to hold back tears.
Then one of the team members, Angela, started speaking. She was talking about her encounter with Stella, the beaded-jewelry maker. They had shared stories and prayed over each other. Then, from one entrepreneur to another, they made plans to market Stella’s jewelry in the U.S. Angela chatted excitedly about the idea of partnering with Stella to help provide for both of their families. To help pay for school fees and supplies. Mothers partnering from across the Atlantic. It was then that I also heard Krista talking about coming back the next year—and her desire to bring books for the school library. Scott spoke of how he had left tools behind with a few of the construction workers. Exhaustion turned into excitement as our team began to envision what the future may hold.
I had invested so much time, energy and resources into this mission trip. I prayed for wisdom as the itinerary of the trip came together—asking God to fashion it the way He pleased. Now, at the end of our 14 days, I couldn’t keep the tears from streaming down my face as I thanked God for using me. It was incredibly humbling to think that He would use me…homemaker and mother of 5…to coordinate the details and then partner with my husband to lead this trip to Uganda. I quietly asked the Lord to continue to use me. I never wanted to feel anything but fully utilized again.
There I was at a waterfront table with chilled iced tea and fresh white linens, dreaming of the memory of self-validation on a sweltering bus lumbering down a dusty road in a poverty-stricken town.
And I began to think, “What IS my dream?”
After a few days of contemplation, I found my answer. It is this:
At the end of my life, I want to be able to say I lived a life poured out. A life centered on other people. I want to have a lifetime of relationships, of varying levels, that I have sowed into. I want to bring people closer to Christ. I want to empower people to live their destiny. I want people to say that they felt valued by me.
How is this dream accomplished?
There will be high-highs…the pinnacle, mountain top-like times like I experienced in Uganda.
There will be the lowest lows when I ask God “Why?”
But I think the majority of this life will be the in-between. The 23rd peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the week. The wasted 30 minutes to pick up dry cleaning. Spilled milk.
So what do we do during these times?
I think if we’re not careful, we can live life desiring the rush of the mountaintop and forget that there is much preparation required to get there.
To live a life poured out, I have to be consistent in the everyday. I need to slow down and spend time with my husband. Read with my children. Have coffee with a friend. I need to be slow to speak and quick to listen. If I am moving too fast in pursuit of the next rush, I will miss out on the beauty around me.
I love that song, “You Make Me Brave.” I love singing it and envisioning God taking me on a grand adventure.
But sometimes the bravest thing we can do is to serve quietly and unseen—knowing that our actions won’t be publicly recognized.
Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is surrender more of our hearts to God. To surrender the areas we don’t like to expose, even to ourselves.
God’s Word tells us:
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”
Then, we read on:
“He does it not by pushing us around but by working WITHIN US, His Spirit DEEPLY and GENTLY WITHIN US.” Ephesians 3:20-21 MSG
In conclusion: He CAN and WILL do anything—greater than anything we can dream up. And He does it by working deeply and gently within us. If God is going to work into the depths of our hearts, and do it gently, this will take time.
This is what the, normal, mundane, peanut butter and jelly times are for.
There is no idle time in God’s schedule.
He is working today. The work He is doing in you may be great on the exterior with lots of fruit and harvest or He may be doing a quieter, deeper, gentle work on the inside.
How do we handle these quieter times of growth?
- Don’t be discouraged. Our God thinks so highly of us that He takes the time to grow us up on the inside. He is more concerned with our character and the condition of our heart that anything we could ever do for Him!
- Press in.
Read the Bible. Pray. Worship. Listen. Quiet your soul.
“Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.” Psalm 46:10, The Voice
- Read and Learn.
Read books, blogs, devotionals. Research and discover where your passions lie. Spend time in nature. Discover art. Use creativity. Sharpen a skill.
- Pour Out.
Take someone a meal. Help someone paint their house. Volunteer at your local church or charity.
If we can take these seemingly mundane times and turn them into sowing, I believe God will work in and through us to create a great, beautiful harvest of our lives.