I spent last Friday and Saturday in Alexandria, Minnesota, helping at Bridging the Gap’s Single Moms Retreat. For the past three days, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to sum up all that happened in my heart over the weekend.
Friday morning started with a team meeting. Just before the meeting started, we were all given a pink T-shirt with the word Dream on the front and told to wear them for the weekend. On the back of the shirt was a list of “dreams” written by the women who attended last year’s retreat. Without taking time to actually read the list, I went to the restroom and put my shirt on. During the ensuing team meeting, I found myself staring at the back of the woman sitting across the table from me (she was obviously facing away from me, toward the team leader.) She was clearly paying closer attention to the leader’s directions than I was, because I was busy reading the words on her back. Close to the top of the list was one mom’s dream: “My Dream is to Dream Again.”
As soon as I read that sweet dream, tears formed in my eyes, threatening to turn me into a hot mess. I thought of the mom who had dared to write those words; the mom who was so focused on keeping her little ones fed, clothed, and cared for that she had forgotten how to dream . . . or had simply given up, figuring her dreams no longer mattered. You see, over the years, I’ve had a boatload of dreams go through my brain. Some of them are pretty far-fetched, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming them. I believe that God loves it when we dream. In fact, I believe that sometimes God is the very One who puts those dreams in our heads. So to hear of a mom who has quit dreaming made me sad.
If you know me at all, you know that I have a pretty tender heart. I love to encourage people, help them when I can, and I cry at pretty much any sad situation (and generally the sappy happy ones, too.) If God would say to me one day, “Nancy, I’m thinking of giving you a super power. What would you like it to be?” My answer would be this: “I’d like to have the ability to fix things for people.” Not everybody, obviously (because that would be exhausting), but when someone comes to me with an issue, I’d like to be able to say, “Here, let me fix that for you.” For instance, when one of the moms told me that she struggled to get to church each week because she doesn’t own a car, what I would have LOVED to do is say, “You know what? I think I can buy you a car so that you can get to church.” But I can’t, and even if I could, it might not be the right thing for me to do. There just might be a lesson that God is allowing her to learn through her current circumstances. If I stepped in and “fixed it,” I might be messing up the very plans that God has for her. Good plans!
In that situation, at least there was no one in danger. But another mom I spoke with over the weekend was in a more precarious spot. I can’t share the details but suffice it to say there was a crisis going on. It broke my heart to hear this mom weep in despair. Oh, how I wanted to fix it. But again, I couldn’t put the pieces of her life back together. Along with another team member, we brought this mom’s heartache to the Lord. We didn’t fix it, we just talked to the One who could. And oh how I struggled to just “let it be” because I knew there were some things I COULD do. I just didn’t know if I SHOULD do them. In the end, the Lord eliminated the options for me to be “the fixer” and reminded me through my teammate that sometimes it really is enough “just” to pray. It’s a lesson that God has been trying to teach me for, oh I don’t know, the last 40 years or so.
God loves that sweet mom even more than I do. God loves you even more than I do. And he loves all of our kids more than we ever could. He will take care of them! Sometimes he’ll ask for our help, and other times he’ll say, “just pray.” It’s our job, yours and mine, to be obedient to his lead, and to be okay with not being the fixer.
By the way, I did get to meet the mom who had shared her “dream to dream again.” She was excited to see her “dream” on the t-shirt. When I asked her if things had changed in the past year, she said, “I’m just starting to dream again.” I’m going to continue to pray for all those moms. God has awesome plans for their lives and I’d like to see every single one of them dream big!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.In those days when you pray, I will listen.If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Jeremiah 29:11 – 13
A special thank you to Esther Aspling who graciously allowed me to use her awesome picture of the retreat decorations.