Have you ever had dreams that didn’t come true?

Normally on Tuesdays I write Top 10 posts, and I have a whole bunch of sexy top 10 post ideas! But I’m having a really strange week still.

First, I was supposed to record two radio interviews yesterday and today, but I sound like a boy in puberty. I still am a little under the weather, and my voice is awful. So those got cancelled.

Then on Saturday our internet started getting patchy, and we called Bell Canada and they agreed to send us a new modem. Yesterday the internet quit altogether (thankfully after I had my blog post up) and then our phone line went down. So we have no internet and no phone line. I spent much of the day on the phone with Bell Canada super frustrated, and I finally made them agree to pay for extra data on my phone so I could use my phone as a hotspot all day. After you’ve been with a company for 20 years you would think they would be nicer to you. And every time they transferred me to someone else I had to begin my whole story again. Let’s just say that my attitude towards the people on the other end of the line was definitely not Christlike. Not a good day for me.

Needless to say I’m not feeling super creative or super energetic today to write a big marriage post.

But I do have all these thoughts running through my head, so I thought it may be easier for me to share that with you.

When your dreams don't come true: Maybe God wants to honor your heart, and do other things in your life.

First, let me tell you about a sermon I heard on Sunday.

The pastor made the point that there are two kinds of mid-life crises:

  • Those you have when you realize you’ve reached all your goals–so now what?
  • Those you have when you realize that you will never reach all your goals

And I thought about that second one–when you realize that all the dreams and goals you have for yourself aren’t going to be fulfilled.

Here’s the main thought: Is it really so bad to have dreams that don’t come true?

Let me tell you about two sets of dreams I’ve had.

Dream #1: I wanted to adopt two kids

I remember as a teenager working at summer camps with troubled youth that what I wanted as an adult, more than anything, was to adopt some kids who really needed me. I’d watch movies and read stories about adoption and I would cry and vow to rescue kids.

When I married my husband he wanted the same thing, too. In fact, we made a plan: two of our own, two adopted.

When our girls got to be around 8 and 6 we thought it may be time to start looking at adoption. So we enrolled in the course at our local Children’s Aid society. We took all the training and had the home study done. And then these little foster girls came into Keith’s office (he’s a pediatrician) one day. Keith got to talking with the foster mom. They needed a family so badly. The girls were 8 and 2.

We thought about it and we were so excited! So we took the kids for relief for a few weekends.

And we realized it would never work.

It wasn’t that they weren’t great girls; it’s just that the 8 year old was the same age as Rebecca, and she was just so different. Rebecca was so far ahead of her academically. The comparison would be terrible.

So we knew that if we were ever going to adopt, it would have to be almost as two distinct families, when our own girls were older, because to mix them in would be messy.

We felt a definite “NO” from God.

But by the time the girls got to the age where we could have had two distinct families, I was traveling all the time for speaking. We were taking a lot of missions trips to Africa. And we didn’t feel the same pull.

In fact, I had a distinct message from God when I was speaking one weekend. I was out for a walk on the beach at the retreat centre, and I was pouring out my heart to God about how sad I was that I hadn’t met my dreams. I was 35. I really wanted more kids. And I heard distinct words in my head and heart that God had other plans for me over the next ten years, and that my time as a new mother was over, and that was okay.

Here’s dream #2: We always wanted to spend a protracted time with the girls on the mission field.

Keith and I had always said that we would spend some time overseas with the girls, and in 2002 World Vision sent us a fundraising letter for the Mulli Children’s Family home in Kenya, where they rescued girls from the sex trade (along with other work). It’s home to 800 orphaned and abandoned children, and has rescued more than 4000 over its years. We gave money, and decided then and there that when Rebecca was 13 and Katie was 11 we’d go spend a year helping there.

My mom found out about this, and thought, “there is no way they’re taking my grandchildren to Kenya without me checking it out first.” So in 2004 she headed to MCF herself. She fell in love.

My mother in Kenya

In 2006, our family went to Kenya for the first time ourselves.

Kenya with the Gregoire girls

It had such an impact on the girls. We spent two weeks there and then one week at a missions hospital to check it out.

Keith and I made plans to spend the school year 2007-2008 in Kenya. He would work at the missions hospital, which was overjoyed to have him come and teach pediatrics for two semesters, and we would take some trips down to the Mulli Children’s Family, too. The girls would go to the missions school that was right at the hospital campus and get to know some missionary kids.

Katie Hair Kenya

We had been saving the money for years to go. We arranged for him to have a sabbatical from the hospital. We found a family to live in our home. And we applied to the missions organization.

At first they were excited to have us.

But then weird things started to happen. Two representatives came over for dinner one night and made it clear that every missionary under the auspices had certain theological beliefs on what we felt were fringe issues.

Then, every single time that they phoned us our line would go dead.

Then they wanted to send Keith to a different country altogether, where our kids would have to go boarding school away from us. Not going to happen. They relented, but made it clear they weren’t happy with us.

Then our acceptance package arrived in the mail–burned to a crisp. It came in a ziploc bag with a letter from Canada Post saying, “We’re sorry, but the mailbox where this was mailed was set on fire, and this is all that remains.”

We wondered about this. Was it a sign from God?

So we talked to Shaun, a good friend of ours, and asked what he thought.

He said,

If God wanted to give you a sign, what else could he do?

We told the missions agency no. We bought a new house, changed churches, and our lives went in a different direction.

In December of 2007, Kenya had an election. Tribal warfare broke out afterwards. We would have been right in the middle of it. God knew to keep us in Canada.

But we still went back to Kenya–after the violence died down! We’ve been there three times in total.

Kenya Sheila

In 2010 we led a medical missions trip with 7 Christians and 18 not-yet-Christians. And it was the best team we ever led. Eighteen people got to see the gospel in action. They were changed. It was awesome.

My mom has returned seven times since her initial trip in 2004. She’s raised tons of money for them. She’s brought so many people over, leading tons of trips. And she’s introduced many friends to Jesus, too.

And it all started because Keith and I, when the girls were young, decided we wanted to go live there. We didn’t reach our dream, but God still worked because of those dreams. And He did an amazing thing in my mother’s life that would never have happened had we not had those dreams.

What do dreams mean?

I think when we have dreams of what we want to do for God, it simply means that our hearts cry out to be significant. God sees that. God honours that–as if we had actually done it.

Those dreams may come from an honest heart. But they don’t necessarily come from God.

Does that make sense? Just because you have a good dream doesn’t mean that this is God’s will for your life. Now, dreaming something that isn’t God’s will isn’t wrong. Do you remember the story of Paul and his companions in Acts 16:6-9? They had this vision of expanding their preaching, and tried to go to Asia. The Holy Spirit stopped them. So they tried to go somewhere else. Nope. God stopped them there, too.

Then one night Paul has this dream about the man calling him from Macedonia. And they get in a boat, sail to Macedonia, and meet Lydia, the first European convert (who also happened to be a woman who wears purple! I have a commenter called lydia purple who loves that story, too!).

Were they  wrong to try to go to Asia? Were they wrong to go to Bithynia? No, of course not. But that wasn’t what God wanted for them. In making the effort, though, they showed God their willingness to serve Him.

Sometimes we have dreams that are very, very good but aren’t from God.

Just because something isn’t from God doesn’t mean it’s bad; it only means that it may not get done. But God can still use those dreams in our hearts. God used my dreams to help troubled kids by sending us to Africa instead. And ironically, I told my best friend about our dreams and about fostering, and SHE ended up adopting a child from the foster care system.

God used our dreams to take our kids on the mission field to give our children a vision of the world they may not otherwise have had. He took my mom on amazing adventures she may not have had. But our dreams didn’t come true the way we saw them.

I think God wants us to dream dreams and put in effort to meet those dreams–just like Paul and his companions did. And if we’re going in the wrong direction, God will stop us, like He stopped Paul and like He stopped Keith and me. But two things to remember:

  • If God stops you, it doesn’t mean you dreamed wrong
  • If your dream doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed at your life’s purpose

I’ve been trying that read-the-Bible through in a year thing for the last few years, and I’ve been reading it more like stories and less like a Bible study where you pick apart each word. And the thing I notice, over and over again, is how God does speak specific things to people, but He does it very rarely. Maybe once or twice over their entire lives. Other than that, He wants us to figure things out and walk in faith.

Sometimes God speaks extremely specific words into your life.

I have had that happen, and I can’t share it here because it’s not primarily my story. But I can tell you that hearing that very specific thing was different than the dreams I had. Those dreams were out of my heart; they weren’t a word from the Lord. But that doesn’t mean that they were wrong.

What am I trying to say? I guess it boils down to this:

It is good to dream big things for God. It is good to work towards those dreams. But if those dreams don’t happen after you worked and prayed and prepared, then that is because God is honouring the heart behind the dream rather than the dream itself. So don’t feel like you’ve failed. Your job is to dream; it is God’s dream to bring it to fruition. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s only because God has something else.

I hope that makes sense today. I know it’s not my usual post, but seriously–this has been a strange week with my health and the internet and everything. So I’ve been thinking a lot. I’m praying that this was something that somebody needed to hear today!

Have you ever had a dream that didn’t come true? How did you reconcile that with God? Let’s talk in the comments!

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