I had them too. I had the “ever since I was a kid” kind of dreams. Some were a bit fantastical, like the years I dreamed of being an astronaut, when the truth is I feel unstable in a “lifted truck”. Then there was the hair beautician season. I relished it when I had a “client” (a.k.a. victim) and could coif the perfect feathered bang look. Unfortunately for my younger brother, this meant he was usually the one having to “stay still” on a potty lid for ridiculous amounts of time.
Oh, there were other dreams too. Like when I considered becoming an OB/Gyn so I could “be with babies all day” and help women. Have you seen me with blood? Friends, band-aids are this girl’s limit. What was I thinking? I wish I could say this only lasted while I was just a wee one, but I took this dream all the way into my sophomore year of college. Big surprise to all: I failed out of organic chemistry AND pre-med biology. In the same semester. Academic probation had all my attention and I learned a hard lesson:
Sometimes we move on from our dreams, but other times our dreams move on from us.
And some of the time, this is ok. Discovering what we are made for, what life labor fits us, is not always a straight road. Has it been one for you? If not, then you know what I mean. And you know what feeling lost feels like.
There was this one dream though. This dream I carried deep inside, through all of my seasons. It was my passion for words — talking and writing — and a dream of using these to bring joy to God. Oh friend, I love my twin passions! When I am engaging with a woman and she catches a glimpse of who she could be because of God’s love for her, it feels like a net of balloons has been released over our heads and an orchestra is cued with that end-of-movie celebratory song! You know, the one that has the whole row up and dancing as they scurry to the restrooms.
I didn’t know what my profession would be but I knew that wherever I was, I would be talking and writing with women in mind.
So you can imagine my heartache in May of 2017, when my life reached a point where I faced a future of silence. The moment was one in the history books for my family because Grizz and I were sitting comfortably poolside while on vacation when it all hit: an epic (public) meltdown. But before I tell you more about that poolside sideshow, let me explain how the moment came to be…
I had been moving closer toward my passion for years, inching along with every job shift toward speaking and writing with women more intentionally. My recent career had been on my church staff, as Womens’ Ministry Director. I loved so much about that opportunity. It wasn’t a perfect fit for my gifts, but it was a privilege to serve our local church and connect with women in such a deep way. That role shaped me too, in so many of the ways I needed shaping. But after several years, due to some complex dynamics in our adoption story mixed with some untended infertility grief and growing fears and anxieties, it was clear to me and my family that my next best step was to step down and come home to heal.
So I stepped down. I got off the path that felt like it was heading straight into my dream. I didn’t just step down though, I stepped into what became a cocoon of anonymity and quiet that would continue on for a couple of years. With the exception of using a pseudonym of “Mama Bear” so I could share my passion for the Gospel and for Noonday Collection in some friend’s homes, I didn’t surface in the land of speaking and writing – and certainly wasn’t using my name.
It wasn’t all sad though, no. There was pain to work through so it wasn’t easy, but I’ll take hard that gets me somewhere over easy that gets me nowhere.
It was hard, but it was healthy. Then in May of 2017, I started to get restless. I was feeling the once-safe cocoon now begin to chafe, and I began wondering if the risk of being found by people who could harm me was worth it to be who God created me to be? Even though now I wasn’t sure who that was anymore.
Now, back to that pool. I was sitting next to Grizz enjoying a little date break while my daughter napped in our condo with my mama. I had started dreaming again (or trying to) about what I’m here for, what I’m able to offer my world uniquely. My daughter would start preschool in just a year, which meant my weekly planner would grow wider in space. Years before I assumed God would either give us another child through adoption or would use my voice in speaking and writing again. But as our story unfolded, no more kids came and our story only became more complex so that I perceived a need to stay anonymous and hidden.
I felt stuck. Cornered. Lost. Confused. Generic. Even unnecessary to my world.
I had been nursing these concerns for months without sharing them, but sitting by that pool surrounded by beauty and laughter and calypso music, I started to relax and feel the fullness of my longing. As I flipped through the pages of the newest Magnolia Journal, the colorful flat-lay images of others’ living their dreams wide-open was all that it took to untie the thread that was holding me together. The sight of others bringing beauty, vision, hope, inspiration, following their dreams, having dreams at all — doing what they were made to do with joy and courage — unraveled me.
Ya’ll. I fell apart.
I mean I bawled.
Hard. And loud.
In the public. Picture families playing, everywhere around us.
Gently, my man took me by the arm and carried my wilting soul on a stretcher into a more private space so the floods could come with all their force. And boy, they sure did!
Amidst the tears I worked out a few phrases for my husband to process as he watched his wife implode.
“I feel worthless”
“I’m not good at anything enough to actually do it as a profession.”
“I can’t speak or write, I can’t be seen or found. I see no way out.”
“God likes others more than me. God has chosen others to do beautiful things, to have babies, to dream dreams and do amazing things that help people. I’m just here to keep our calendar and floors clean…and I don’t even do this well!”
“I’m not cool enough to keep up with trends, I don’t have connections, I’m not young enough anymore…my window has closed and it’s too late for me.”
I believed my dream to speak and write had move away from me. I thought something was wrong with me, that I was being punished or was uniquely unskilled to be used by God. Yes, I was a licensed attorney, but my soul had walked that path and felt no life there in that season. Every path before me looked like rocks, where no life was growing. Honest truth, I even voiced to Grizz how I was contemplating a job at Subway just so I could make sandwiches that looked lovely. (True story! But the rest of the story is that I got really sick from the food smells when I worked in the dining hall in college, which was another very public display! So even that job seemed like something I couldn’t handle.)
When the tears dripped their last, Grizz said some wise things. Some of them I even heard. I remember he said he would walk with me in this, that we would go back to some of our old notes from a self-discovery journey we went on a couple years prior. He said we would pray, we would ask God to show us what His plans are for me.
He told me I mattered. He reminded me God made me to use my voice, and that He would see to it in time.
I can’t say I believed him then, but I relaxed. I also put the magazine away and turned to Scripture. Sometimes when you feel lost, watching others run in their lane does not feel inspiring.
Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” Proverbs 25:20, NLT
I needed to hear the familiar sound of my Creator’s voice, and listen for what He wanted to say to me, His creation.
Friend, do you feel like someone has taken your coat in cold weather? Maybe it’s time to look away from all those living the dream, and listen a little closer to the One who has one built just for you!
What I had no way of knowing was that in all the paths, among all the rocks…God was springing up a new thing. In fact, that new thing was me. Heather.
Did you know the flower “Heather” actually grows in rock gardens? Well, now you do. And now I do too.
While I was falling apart at the seams in despair, God was preparing to bring life from what felt dead. He had hope in His pocket when all seemed hopeless. And beautiful life was about to rise up between craggy rocks!
In that restless and broken place I surrendered my dream to speak and write to God, and asked Him to show me His plans. Just weeks later I’d make one courageous post on my super-private Instagram feed that would reach the eyes of the President of a Christian publishing house that chose to risk their reputation on me with a book contract.
That’s right. From broken and cocooned to book contract – in one month.
Only God, ya’ll. He sees us. He sees you. I don’t know what the paths look like in your life today, but I do know that we are wise to put our hope in God no matter what we see.
Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:4-5 NLT
Don’t let the rocks deceive you, friends. God can make life spring up anytime, anywhere.
If you want to read more stories of how God made a way for this girl when there was NO way – and does it for anyone who trusts in Him – you can order my BOOK – that’s right. It officially launches September 1st! The book that became a possibility just one month after my ground zero.