The dream I lost on July 25, 2015.


I kept watching the clock. It was early, still dark outside. But I was up anyway…..sleep evaded me. The team would be at the airport to board the plane soon. I should have been with them.

But I couldn’t get on a plane to anywhere. I couldn’t leave the city of Omaha. I was being investigated for neglecting my children. My world was being controlled by the powers of the State of Nebraska. It wasn’t my own anymore.

As I laid in bed next to my sleeping husband, tears fell quietly from my eyes and soaked into my pillow. Tears, the ones that came so easily and often now, leaked out of me from pain, from confusion, from frustration. It is astonishing how much can change in an instant. The summer we had planned was drastically different from where it had landed.

On July 25th of last summer, I was scheduled to be on that plane. I was part of a team of people traveling to an orphanage in Costa Rica. We were supposed to spend 10 days there, caring for the kids, assisting the staff and exploring God’s creation. Olivia was on the team too, and my heart was so thrilled for this opportunity to do God’s work alongside her. She was beyond excited. But one phone call shifted everything and here I was, home in my bed instead of on a plane. My daughter’s beds sat empty in the rooms down the hall. They were asleep in a foster home. I propped my cell phone on my chest and watched as the clock clicked by……4:39am, 4:40am, 4:41am.

I spent eleven years as a banker. When God called me away to work for the Church, no one was more surprised than me. I knew there was something else, something more for me to do. But I would have never guessed it was Kingdom work. No way, not me. Then I felt the nudge….and being a gal bent toward following her Father, I leapt. I’m so glad I did. In the safe haven of the work He gave me, I felt new things coming to life, hurts falling away and dreams reawakening. The part of me that had been asleep for so long in the humdrum of spreadsheets and numbers and general ledgers started to stir, yawn and reach her arms up in a nice, long stretch. Without even realizing it, I walked right into the thing He had designed me for all along. I had a purpose in the Kingdom, a calling to work for Him.

I happened to land in the Global Outreach ministry of my church. This girl, who had never traveled past Mexico for a vacation, was suddenly booking flights for places in the far reaches of the world, and hopping on a plane to Chicago to implore the Consulate of India to approve our last-minute Visa requests. It was the stuff that only God can orchestrate. But I picked it up and fell in love along the way. And at some point, God nestled into my heart this idea to get on one of those planes with one of those teams. ‘Go serve in the world I created, Daughter,’ He said.

After a few starts and stops, Olivia and I were invited onto the Costa Rica team. We couldn’t wait to go over and snuggle babies, to hug the workers there, to tip toe into the waterfall not far from the orphanage. We trained, we planned, we prayed. But then we couldn’t take part anymore and my heart broke into a million tiny shards as I informed my team leaders. It felt like a cruel trick, this dream so large and promising now torn to pieces. At our supervised visits, Olivia was sullen. My girl, who’d had a beckoning into the Nations for years, even before I did, felt like her heart had been trampled too. This dream, to follow our God into the parts of His design we never thought to visit, was no more.

But time, if you let it, has a way of recreating, re-imagining, restoring. My Father is a promise-maker, and, as the maker of promises, He is faithful to keep them. The dream that had never come to fruition was about to be made new. Months later, in the chill of a sunny December afternoon, I rode along in my Pastor’s car, on our way to a Christmas lunch. She mentioned Serbia, told me she felt it was a good fit, asked me consider it….and in my heart was a spark again. The spark of the dream, after growing stale on the floor of my sadness, was still there. And little by little it became a roaring fire.

Take my side and get me out of this; give me back my life, just as you promised.
Psalm 119:154 (MSG)

In four days, I will get on a plane. This time to Serbia, but with a similar purpose-to care for kids, assist the staff and explore God’s creation. With surprising ease, this team has come together, funds have been gathered, prayers have been answered. These days, it’s taking everything in me to contain the excitement that is dangerously close to leaking out of me. I’m not positive my skin can contain it all. God didn’t just want to trade my old dream for a new one. He wanted to ignite in me the kind of dream that overflows and heals. And the whisper in my heart, ‘Lord, let me get on the plane this time.’ will be answered. Because, y’all, a good Father longs to-yearns to- make it all okay again. He doesn’t want to leave us wallowing alone in sorrow, or to flee in the midst of trial. That’s definitely not His desire or His design. When everything breaks down and the dreams held inside your heart fall out, it is absolutely the plan to give you back your life. That’s His promise. He keeps them.

Dreaming again,
Mande

Last year, I was MIA on my birthday. Here’s why.

I wasn’t hungry. Not even a little bit. For the last month, I had barely eaten at all. The heavy weight of worry hinders the rumbles of the stomach.

But it was July 8th,  my birthday, and they had invited me out for breakfast, these two sweet women in my life.  Women who had cared for me well, who had bent low at the feet of Jesus on my behalf. They wanted to celebrate me, though that was the furthest thing from my mind. I forced a veggie omelet down my throat, partially to be kind, but mostly because I knew Father wanted me to eat to keep the body He had given me humming along to fight the battle at hand. They came bearing gifts, one from each of them, along with a big basket of goodies from my dear friends at work…..friends who didn’t have knowledge of what was going on, but they thought of me, even in my absence. I had been at work on June 15th, as usual, and then…..I just wasn’t. It had been a month and surely people were wondering where I was. Only a handful of people knew that my world had fallen and shattered into pieces. We were caught in the mangled and warped system of the State of Nebraska. The same one designed to protect children, now the ironic deliverer of trauma.

It felt odd to lead a life of silence. Of secrecy. It’s not my style, nor is it my husband’s. We’re the kind of people who wear emotions, thoughts, opinions and everything in between on our sleeves. Out loud and in bold color. Sometimes to our detriment, but always with honesty. Those days, the ones hallmarked by hushed isolation, felt shrouded in darkness and laden with sobering gravity. We moved through the minutes that felt like hours bolstered by God alone. He breathed for us, walked for us, talked for us. We were held inside the skin of capable, adult bodies, but we needed Him to care for us like newborns. We depended on our God completely.

After breakfast, I went home to rest. I never really felt rested or restored. I just hovered on the edge between sleep and consciousness. But resting felt like the only way to carry on. The exhaustion of waking up, and wading through the muck of lawyers and court dates and supervised visits with my girls, was enough to deplete us completely by mid-morning. Unlike years past, rest was my birthday plans. No parties. No laughter rippling around a table of friends and family, bouncing off the walls of some favorite restaurant, huddling over a scrumptious dessert gobbled up after jolly singing. Just rest. It felt like a sweet respite from thinking.

Even in my depletion, in the lowly state of oppression, I knew the promises of my good God would be fulfilled. Not because I deserved it, or anything really. I deserve nothing. None of us deserve anything good. It’s only the miracle of the Spirit in me that restores me to receiving grace and mercy. And I knew that when He makes a promise, He means it. Father is not flippant or scattered or finicky. Even in the midst of despair, the resolve in my heart was solid: this God who had taken the broken shell of a girl, filled her with new Life and given her a purpose in the Kingdom would absolutely, without question, 100% bring us out of the depths to full restoration. And more than that, He’d crown us with honor. Because the sons and daughters of the only true King receive all. He gives freely and unconditionally. He gives out of love.

Yesterday, I found myself surrounded by a group of caring, Godly women once again. On the brink of another birthday, here they were, women standing around me in a circle, offering up prayers to the God we all have in common and love so. But instead of rescue and resolution, they prayed for joy, for peace, for a year sweetened with the honey from the Creator who loves to shower His kiddos with extravagant gifts. They declared this a year of good things, of beauty constructed from the ashes of last summer. I stood there in awe of what He can do with the messes of this life, humbled by the depth of His love for this simple, unqualified girl. Born from the rubble of heartbreak, here was a new year of birth, another year to revel in His glory and goodness.

This summer marks a jubilee of a different kind. My birthday will come and go, just as it does every year that I am given the gift of more Life. We’ll probably celebrate with dinner and adorable, handmade cards. Maybe a movie. Oh, how I love a reclining lounger and buttered popcorn. I’ll love every minute of it. But more than that, I will celebrate what God has done. I will rejoice in His deliverance. I will praise Him for another July 8th, another chance to look back and see His faithful, steadfast hand of favor. And I will celebrate what He restored, through the bitter troubles He allowed, brought full circle to joy- a joy only realized in the aftermath of victory.

 

Happy Birthday,
Mande