By: Erica Boutwell, IF:Local Coach
In August of 2003, I was working for an international ministry that had me serving in west Texas. My year had not gone quite as I thought it would. The beautiful picture that had been painted for me with regard to my position had steadily become more like that first-draft sketch on the back of the canvas that resembles nothing of the final piece of artwork. I was lonely, confused, and desperately needed God to show me something.
I had just finished reading The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. The first part of the book is written in the form of a parable while the second part applies the lessons from the story. It’s about a guy named Ordinary from the Land of Familiar who sets out to fulfill the Big Dream given to him. He overcomes countless obstacles, only to be asked to give his dream back . . . seriously? Ordinary decides to trust the Dream Giver and discovers that His leaders’ plans were even greater than he imagined.
On that sunny August afternoon, I felt the Lord leading me to write out MY dream. I began writing and before I knew it, I had filled the page. Then, almost audibly, the Lord told me to destroy the piece of paper I had written my dream on. I felt like Ordinary in the moment he was asked to hand over his Big Dream. I could either hold tightly to what I thought was God’s purpose for my life, or I could let go of it and experience ALL that He has for me.
So as all logical 24 year olds do in these situations, I decided that burning it would be best. I took that little lighter that comes in every vehicle and held My Dream up to it. As I sat on the hood of my car, watching my dream slowly disappear, I prayed that God would speak clearly to me.
I finished praying and I looked one last time at the piece of paper in my hand. I noticed that the glow was gone and it was no longer burning. All that was left was the very top of the page with the words My Dream written on it. I knew God was telling me to hold on to this as a reminder that He really does have a Big Dream for me, and that He will bring it to fruition. I folded up the remnant, and stuck it in my Bible at my favorite Psalm . . . 51, so I could easily find it.
A few years later, that Bible went missing. I was devastated by what I had lost, but eventually replaced it. Then about 2 years later, as we were packing our things to move into our first home, I was emptying my nightstand when I noticed something fall to the side. I picked it up, unfolded it, and there it was . . . My Dream. To this day, I have no idea how it got there because the last time I saw that piece of paper, it was tucked safely in my Bible . . . that I lost . . . 2 years before.
In a split second I was taken back to that park in Abilene. I began to recount all the things I had written down and almost every single thing had come to be. But somewhere in the process, I had lost sight of the big picture. I was so stuck in my own little world of getting through each day without losing my mind, that I wasn’t seeing each step of the Dream unfolding and that it was even better than anything I had planned. As I sat there on my bedroom floor bawling like a baby over my lack of gratitude, I felt Jesus’ arms sweep me up as if to say, “I’ve got this. And I’m not done.” That day I learned a huge lesson that would impact me to this day – the importance of counting.
I’m a very task driven person. It’s nothing for me to get lost in a list of to do’s and so focused on the end game that I don’t pay attention to all the sweet moments happening in between. But that’s right where God abides, isn’t it? Sisters, it is so important for us to stop and take inventory of all the blessings, answered prayers, and movements of the Spirit . . . especially when we’re surrounded by challenges.
Right now, I’m in what I’ve tenderly dubbed “The Vacuum Stage.” No, I’m not referring to the Bissell collecting dust in my closet, because let’s face it, who has time for that. I’m referring to our 3 boys, who I love more than life, but who most days suck the very life out of me from the moment their little feet hit the floor until they’re well into REM sleep. Our oldest has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. Our middle is, well, textbook middle child. And our youngest is 2 – I’ll leave it at that. So continually recalling God’s fingerprints throughout our days is life-giving – scratch that, life-saving.
Be encouraged, sweet friends, as you continue on your IF:Local journey. Carve out time each week to take stock of all God has done in your midst. Some weeks they’ll be small victories and some weeks they’ll be huge. Either way, rejoice! I’m convinced that when we express our gratefulness and acknowledge the things God is doing in our lives, He is moved to even more action. Isn’t it the same between a parent and child? When I do something for my boys and they respond with gratitude, I’m inclined to continue doing good things for them. But when they respond with complaining, well, it’ll be a while before I try that again. How much more might our Father have up His sleeve when we are diligent to remember all He’s done and thank Him for it?
So tell us . . . what has He done this week?