It Takes Faith to Dream

I’d grown up in a household where our dreams were encouraged. Whatever I wanted to do, my mom told me I could do it. Dream it, then accomplish it. She spent my entire life helping me discover my talents and passions, and while those didn’t change much as I grew up, the dreams that they manifested themselves in changed greatly. First, I wanted to be an artist. But then I sadly discovered that I couldn’t draw (that was a bad day), so that put a damper on that career. Then I wanted to be a zoologist because they got to hang out with animals all day. I really like animals. But then my Dad told me I was good at arguing so I should become a lawyer. I liked that idea. Then I started watching CSI and made up my mind to become a crime scene investigator (original, I know). From then, it morphed into a Forensic Scientist, a Criminologist, and then a Psychologist. But when I realized that a studying Psychology would leave me few career options other than becoming a shrink, I decided I needed a new career. The last thing I wanted to do was listen to people’s problems all day. Then I found Marketing. Every time I changed my mind, my mom was supportive of my dream. She never acted like it was a phase I was going through; she just encouraged me to keep dreaming and keep pushing and doing my best. So I did.

I’d never been afraid of my dreams, and I’d never been afraid of not accomplishing them. They were big, but never too big for me to handle. When I came to California, I came out here with a very specific dream: go to school, secure an internship in the entertainment industry, and work my way into the entertainment industry into a Marketing position. I wanted to be the person coordinating the marketing campaigns that backed some of the most popular blockbuster titles. I wanted to live in LA, work in a skyscraper, drive a Mini Cooper, live in a fancy studio apartment, and work like a madwoman. I wasn’t quite sure if marriage and kids would work into that, but I told myself I’d leave that up to God, if He wanted me to do that. As a Christian, I felt it was necessary that I instill some sort of moral values or compass into my work. How? I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew I could be a good witness to people in an industry that so badly needs Christ. As a self-motivated individual, I had worked strategically for three and a half years to get to where I wanted to be at during my senior year of college. I had left a couple very good, well-paid jobs to pursue a crappily-paid internship at Sony Pictures on the studio lot in Culver City. I made good connections and won over their hearts and minds with my intense work ethic and passion for the industry. I was the intern who drooled all over the studio lot and was glossy-eyed with the prospect of seeing a celebrity or watching a film shoot. I worked harder, pushed harder, and would’ve given up anything and everything to be working there.

Up until a few months ago, that was my dream. But there was a day just a few short months ago that my dream died. It wasn’t an external death. I still had my internship. I was still working on the lot. I still proudly carried my Sony Pictures ID badge. My boss still adored me. But the internal fire that I’d had for my job and the industry had been extinguished almost entirely. And the smoldering of that extinguished flame was almost toxic.

Just a few days before, my boss had dropped a TV show pilot script off at my desk. It was my responsibility to read it, take notes, and write up summaries that would be sent out to producers and potential cast members. To be honest, I was ecstatic, though I played it off cool while my boss was giving it to me. I flipped through the pages like they were a long-lost part of the Bible that no one had yet read. I sat down immediately to begin reviewing the script and writing the summaries. I read it once, twice, three times before I began writing. I obsessed about the plot, daydreamed about what the characters and setting would look like when it was finally filmed, and wondered how much I was allowed to talk about the script to my friends without violating some sort of confidentiality agreement. I was pumped.

I worked on this script for a solid two weeks. I read and reread it over and over, trying to soak up every detail before giving a summary, just so I could tell the complete story within my summary. But every time I read the script, new things jumped out at me. New, bothersome things. On first glance, I hadn’t been bothered by the sex scene, or the innuendos, or the violence, or the lies that the main characters partook in. By all industry standards, it was an excellent script. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much “bad stuff” was in it. After a week of reading it, I almost couldn’t even look at it. I especially hated writing the summary for the sex scene that takes place between the main character and her boyfriend at their workplace — a hospital. I must’ve been beet-red as I sat there typing up that part of the summary. Part of me knew that this is what I’d signed up for. Could I really handle it?

My relationship with Christ has never before been what it is now. I’m honestly seeking His will, not just for my life or my career, but in each day. And He’s been retraining my heart, making me more sensitive to things that I’ve long been desensitized to (like sex and swearing in the media). By the end of that two weeks, I couldn’t even look at that script. It physically made me ill to read it. Having to read that script was a turning point in my life where God said “Hannah, here you go. Here’s the career you wanted, the work you dreamt of. Happy?” And the truth was that I wasn’t. In fact, I hated it. Despised it. I wanted to chuck that script, and most TV shows and films, out the window. I wanted to work with ideas that were wholesome. Not necessarily something”religious”, but something that would be edifying instead of degrading. And since I’m a marketer, it would be my responsibility to promote whatever product was placed before me. I couldn’t promote what that script, or most TV shows or films, were saying.

It took me a day or two to wrap my head around what God and my heart were telling me, but when I finally did, it felt like someone had pulled the floor out from under me. I was spinning. I was sad. I wasn’t scared, because I knew that if God was going to take away my desire for this dream, He would replace it with another dream. And if I approached Him in humility and sought His direction, He’d replace it with His dream for me that would be bigger and better than I ever would have expected. But at the same time, my dream of 4 years had died. And in that, part of myself (my old self, if you will), died. I felt like I needed to attend a funeral and say a few parting words.

I had a couple months left in my internship at Sony, so I fulfilled that obligation, all-the while searching for what God’s dream for me is.

Now, I must address the title of this post: it takes faith to dream. I’d always had faith in myself, which was all I needed for me-sized dreams of working in the entertainment industry and becoming rich and powerful (in not so many words). But when my me-sized dream died, I knew it was because God was trying to replace it with a God-sized dream. God-sized dreams are so stinkin’ huge that we often can’t even comprehend what they are until we’re in the middle of them or at least at the precipice. Our brains just can’t go that large when we’re looking at the big picture. After months of stewing, praying, and having a lot of conversations with some really amazing people in my life, I’m beginning to get a clear picture of what my God-sized dream is. And the funny thing is that my God-sized dream is so “small” (in the world’s eyes) in comparison to my me-sized dream. Forget marketing multi-million dollar films with twisted morality and worldviews. I want to market God to a world that so badly needs what He has to offer. Plain and simple.

On top of that, I think God is giving me a dream of combatting sexual abuse and making a difference in young kids’ lives. And when I say “combat”, I mean guns-drawn, armies rallied, fortresses built, and missiles on stand-by. I’m declaring an all-out war. This is the part that really requires faith. I want to use my experience and my strengths/abilities to make a difference on a grand scale, and I think God will let me if I keep my heart in check and wait for His timing. But I don’t WANT to. It’s my dream from God, but it terrifies me more than it does excite me. It is a much bigger dream than I could ever handle. But I feel this unexplainable urge to DO something about it. If you get me talking about how sexual abuse shouldn’t be so taboo and how people don’t need to be so afraid of talking about it (because that’s the very thing that helps give it it’s power and make it such a prevalent issue), I literally feel like I’m on fire. I feel like I could run a marathon, or fly to the moon, or live forever. To read about what I’m actually working on doing about this part of my dream, see my previous post, A Piece of My Heart.

And lastly, part of my new dream is to get married and have kids. It had always been an afterthought, a nice “accessory” if you will, in addition to my fancy life. Now my priorities are different. I’d love to be married in a couple years, to have a companion by my side. A real , Christ-like man that I could respect and trust, which is harder to do than you might think, given my history. And I really, really, REALLY want kids. I’d never really seen myself as a mom before, but that has changed drastically. I can’t wait until I get the chance to raise up a couple (hopefully) godly men and women… tiny people I could invest all of my time/energy/love/experiences/encouragement into. I have more to give than I’d ever thought before.

But my point in this post is this: it takes a lot of faith to dream. To REALLY dream God-sized dreams. And those are the only dreams that combine every bit and piece of you. Don’t get me wrong, I had HUGE, worldly, me-sized dreams. I had a lot of faith in myself and in what I could accomplish. People told me I wouldn’t be able to come to California for college, or graduate, or work in the industry I wanted to. I did all that. I could handle that on my own. But these new dreams that God is giving me are scary. They aren’t ambitious; they’re subtle, because that’s how God works. He uses servants. These dreams will probably make me lead a life with many financial struggles and even more uncertainties. But that’s what makes it a dream… it’ll be hard but SO worth it in the end.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

 

A Piece of My Heart

I want to warn you by saying that this post may have more info about me than you want to know. I second-guessed writing it, but I feel the need to brag about God and what He’s doing in my life no matter how I personally feel about it. He’s worth more than that. He’s bigger than that.

Gen-Why, the young adult small group through my church that I help lead, has been studying a book by the name of SHAPE. It helps us examine our exact shape, or footprint, of who God made each of us to be. It walks us through the spiritual gifts, interests, passions, and experiences that God gave each of us, and it leads us closer to using those things to glorify God (our ultimate purpose in life). For those of you who have read Purpose Driven Life, this book was written almost as a sequel to go a bit more in-depth on how each person is designed uniquely. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, enough about the book. This week’s chapter, as we wrap up our study, was designed to start pulling some of the individual chapters/pieces together into a portrait of how God designed us and perhaps what He has in mind for our futures. I started pulling some of these pieces about myself together (below). Notice the lovely SHAPE acronym.

Spiritual Gifts: (I am gifted in…)
Counseling, administration, discernment, leadership, wisdom

Heart: (I feel passionately towards serving…)
Young girls. See “Experiences” section below.

Abilities: (I am good at…)
Coordinating, encouraging, designing, planning

Personality:  (I…)
Am better with one on one interaction, like to lead, am self-controlled

Experiences: (I’ve been through…)
I’ve never written out a “testimony” for the world to see… maybe one day. If you’re interested in hearing the full version, or at least the version I’ve been able to wrap my pea-brain around, I’d love to share it over a cup of coffee. But much of it can be summed up in a sentence that I’ve recited every Tuesday night at Celebrate Recovery: “God is granting me victory over issues related to childhood sexual abuse.” It sounds so clinical, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth, and that truth is setting me free (John 8:32) from a lot of years of pain, anger, confusion, and apathy. Long story short, it’s this experience that God is really calling me to use for His Kingdom. And it’s this experience that really gives me a heart for sexual abuse victims. I understand them in a way that other people can’t. And because it happened while I was in middle school, I really have a passion for middle schoolers, especially girls. And I want to stop it from happening to anyone else.
As I started pulling each of these pieces together, I got a very distinct impression of what I was supposed to do. Maybe not “do with my life”, but definitely “do now”. For the first time I was able to get a clear picture of who I was, what God had gifted me with, what experiences He’d given me, and how I was supposed to use those to really make a difference. In my head I immediately got this mental image of me working in/for an organization that helped educate parents and kids on the issue of sexual abuse, mainly focussing on preventing it. Either that, or me working in/for an organization that helps victims and their parents deal with it after it’s already happened.

But what was my next step? On Thursday I had no clue, but God let me know on Friday morning during my devotional time: “Hannah, go talk to Cori.” For those of you who don’t know Cori, she’s the pastor’s wife and Children’s Ministry coordinator at my church. I’ve been working with her for years, since I teach the middle schoolers in Sunday school, and we have a good relationship. My task tomorrow is to share this piece of my heart with her and see if there’s any place for my “ministry” within the church. I feel strongly that we should talk to parents in our church on how to prepare their children to stick up for themselves and educate them just enough to keep them out of harm’s way. I could be wrong… maybe the church isn’t the right setting. Maybe there’s an organization I should join outside the church to campaign for that. But either way, I’m showing up tomorrow to do what God asked. We’ll see how this goes.

Once Upon a Time

First of all, I’d like to say how honored I’ve been reading comments that you guys make about these blogs posts. It’s nice to know that what I’ve been learning can be of some benefit to others and that others can relate. So thanks for reading and for the encouragement.

Six months ago I had made it up in my mind that I didn’t really have a testimony. I had a lot of stories where God did something cool for me, but since I accepted Christ into my life when I was 3 years old, I didn’t have a radical “come to Christ” moment and there was no “before and after” story. I grew up in church and knew all the Bible stories. Ho hum. I felt that my only testimony was my day-to-day walk. I had no story that would win people to Christ.

There was a lot wrong with that conclusion. First of all, God had already done some amazing things in the short story of my life. He had delivered me from a painful/abusive situation, and by the time I was 18 I was able to give up that pain to God and forgive. I think in the back of my mind I always knew that would be a part of my testimony, but I didn’t consider it grand enough to be my entire story. And rightly so. God is a much bigger thinker than that. But still, I was wrong to write it off. The second thing that was wrong with that assumption was that I hadn’t been completely honest to myself (or others) about who I was. The person I pretended to be around other people (especially Christians) wasn’t who I was. That person was perfect, so she couldn’t have a “story.”

But God began to teach me something in September: everyone has a story. Including me.

My story, in just a few words, is this: God let me get hurt when I was young. I spent the next few years running away from people, hiding, and protecting myself, trying not to get hurt again. It worked; I was able to protect myself. As an adult I began to crack when the bitterness from not forgiving began to take over, and I let God take my heart and my burden while I learned to forgive. I did forgive. Then God began to break my heart into a million pieces while He rebuilt it. I had to be honest about my faults and flaws. He has been rearranging and reshaping me the past few months. The second part of my story is not just freedom from my past: it’s redemption from my present. In Him I’m finding freedom from everything I’m afraid of.

Doesn’t that sound like a typical testimony? Pain, bitterness, shame, regret, freedom and redemption? It is, because that’s how God works. The cool part is that I’m only 21, so God still has time to do a  LOT of work on me.

Chances are, too, that you have a testimony if you’re a Christian. It’s probably not “over”, but it’s at least in progress. You might be in the middle of trauma/crisis right now, or maybe you’re just coming out of something and are still in a daze about what just happened. Or maybe something happened years ago and you just haven’t realized it.

Whatever the case, your story, no matter how small or unimportant it feels, is meaningful. The cool thing about humans is our ability to relate to one another; your story could help or encourage someone right now who’s in the middle of hard times. Don’t be afraid of your story. Don’t hide behind the illusion of perfection. I hate to tell you, but we’re all screwed up. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about it. Especially when there is so much freedom that can be found in the honesty and transparency that Christ brings.

I don’t feel the timing is right to share the details of my story and struggled on the world wide web. Maybe soon. In the meantime, I much prefer one-on-one communication. If you’re interested in hearing more, I’ll be glad to share via FB or email. You know how to reach me.

Saved

Christians are saved. “Saved.” It’s a word that the church uses so overabundantly that I’m sure everyone else is sick of the word and its connotations. I grew up hearing Christians being described as “saved” and God being described as the “Savior”. It made sense, because that’s what I was raised with. A “Savior” “saves”. Ok, got it.

But I don’t think I ever understood it. And I’m not sure that people can really understand it to its full extent until they’ve really begun to drown. I’ll explain what I mean by that.

It’s hard to put into words, but there are times where I am so overwhelmed with crap that I can’t breathe. Like I’m drowning. It’s my own crap: my failures and my imperfections. Sometimes I get so sick of myself that I can hardly stand it, because my mind exhausts itself with its manipulative cons and superwoman antics. I try to do and be everything. It’s also the crap of the world. I look at the pain that my friends and family are in, and I go through their struggles with them. The girl (this girl) who used to keep the world at arms length suddenly can’t keep healthy reins on her empathy. It all adds up to an incredible amount of crap that’s hard to carry around to work, school, and church.

But coming back to the crap: it’s too much sometimes. A lot of the time. I feel like I’m literally drowning, suffocating, beneath a tower of burdens that I’m not strong enough to carry, like a pile of bricks pushing me under into the ocean.

And that’s when I know I need a Savior. It’s not enough to say that God has saved me from my sins, like the churches preach. It’s definitely not enough to just say that He saved me from Hell, so I get to spend eternity in Heaven. That’s all churchy BS. It’s true, but there’s so much meaning lacking behind it. Where’s the love? Where’s the grace and mercy? Where is GOD the Father?

My Savior saves me when I honestly can’t breathe and when I don’t have the strength to cry one more tear as my head hits the pillow. He strokes my face and wraps His arms around me as I cry out of desperation or frustration. But most importantly, He picks up the crappy bricks that I’ve been carrying, tosses them aside, and pulls me from the water so I can finally breathe.

The cool thing about God the Savior is that He doesn’t just save us from our “sins” or our screw-ups. He saves us from our pain, our temptations, our regrets, and our inadequacies. That doesn’t mean that those things won’t still be a part of our lives, but we don’t have to be weighed down by them. We don’t have to drown under their pressures.

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 14:29-31
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”