Years ago I went to the dollar store, one of my favorite places next to Goodwill and decided to take a quick look at their DVD’s. I know that most of us would agree that the dollar store is not the best place to grab a well done film, the shelves are usually full of movies that failed to make it big, are older than dirt, or the most boring documentaries. This time, however, a title caught my eye and made me get excited as I quickly grabbed it, it was called, "Paper Dream". This was a film that just weeks earlier, I had seen the trailer for and wanted to see it so for a dollar I thought I couldn't go wrong. It turns out that this would be one of the best dollars I ever spent.
I have to admit that I watched that film as soon as I could and it did not disappoint, in fact I almost or I think I did cry at the end because the message was so powerful and unexpected. Who knew that a short, forty- five, low-budget film could make such an impact. I want to share some, okay, most of the film with you but I promise I won't spoil the ending for you.
A Little Girl's Dream
The film opens with a young girl standing in front of her class holding a piece of paper on which she had drawn, in simple childish art, what she wanted to be when she grew up. There was a little house, a fence, a man and a woman surrounded by three children. The girl proudly announces that when she grows up she wants to be a wife, a mother, and live in a beautiful house. As she shares her paper dream with the class, the scene shifts to show us the real version of a grown woman, her husband, a lovely home in the background and three children. Gears shift again as the camera pulls back and you see a van getting ready to pull out of the driveway and hear the conversation between the woman and the another woman in the passenger seat as they talk about her babysitting the children. You see, the children the woman held were not hers but her sisters. She was happy to babysit her nieces and nephews again, but underneath her smile there was the familiar look of one whose dream was still that, a mere dream.
A Chance to Dream
I have to say that was a pretty startling opening to the movie, I wasn't quite prepared for it to take that direction but it was also good. You soon learn that Christy, the little girl all grown up, and her husband Matt, have not been able to have children though try as they might. They have sought help through various doctors but nothing has changed, they are still without a child and without answers. Christy struggles with the fact that her paper dream, one that is good, has yet to be completely realized.
At this point in the story Christy also finds out that her sister is expecting her fourth child, not the easiest news in the world, in fact her sister hesitated to tell her. In the end, however, like a good sister, Christy still rejoices with her sister. Matt and Christy decide that adoption is something they both want to pursue and they begin their journey nervous but excited at the possibilities. After going through all the necessary procedures, they finally receive the news that there is a young girl who has chosen them to be the parents of her child who is due in about five months. They go home ecstatic and begin the wonderful task of preparing their home to receive their blessing.
Books are bought and read on the topic of newborns. Clothes, toys, furniture, and necessities are purchased. Soon the nursery is completely decorated in all things blue and sports since they had just learned their baby was a boy, meaning they could officially settle on a name, Levi. To their great joy, they were given a copy of his ultrasound picture, a perfect profile shot of their little love. Shortly after they receive a call from the adoption agency asking them to come by the office. When they arrive they are informed as gently as possible that the mother had chosen another option for her child, though not uttered, it is implied that she chose to have an abortion instead. Your heart breaks for this young couple as they go home in hurting and stunned silence.
Days later Christy, in near anger cries out Why? A question many of us have asked during times of difficulty. Why would God allow this to happen? Why should someone who doesn’t want a child be given one while someone who desperately wants one more than anything else be denied? Her husband bravely makes the comment, "Maybe that’s your problem." Christy doesn't understand his statement so he asks if she remembers how they first met? He was pulling into the church parking lot and she was outside doing craft time with some children and covered in purple paint. He shares that he fell in love with that purple girl because he saw the joy and passion she had teaching those young children about God and His Word. Her husband then says something that was both powerful and stunning, "I miss that", meaning the girl who loved God more than anything else.
Later when Christy sees that Matt still has the ultrasound picture of little Levi tucked inside his Bible, she asks that while they know God is good and in control how can he look at it and believe. His response was amazing "How can you not, I don’t know why this had to happen but it shouldn’t change anything. He is still God” At that climatic moment, their phone goes off and they learn that Christy’s brother in law Steve, married to her very pregnant sister, was in an accident. They rush to the hospital to find that he died. Christy rushes to find her sister who is sitting on the floor of the hospital bathroom and she utters the same word Christy had earlier, "Why?".
As she hears her sister utter her own thoughts out loud, she comes to a moving conclusion, one that touched me greatly by the simplicity of that message. "God doesn’t own us an explanation about anything He’s God. He never promised us we’d get the life we always wanted but He does promise to be with us. No matter what happens."
At the funeral, after Steve has been buried, Christy notices her niece sitting on a nearby bench. She walks over and sees that she has drawn a picture and pays her a compliment. Her niece says that she misses her dad and her Aunt offers her some profound words of wisdom. “Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we pictured it, so we have to give our picture over to God and let Him draw us a new one.” The little girl asks how they can know He is going to draw something good. To which Christy responds, "Because God is good. I don’t know why He lets bad things happen but I know He loves us and He will never leave us. I guess we just have to trust Him."
Remember, I said I wouldn't spoil the film for you but if you want to watch it, I was able to find a link to a place where you can watch it for free.
What is your Paper Dream?
Every one of us had a dream, a picture, of what our life would be and I think I can safely say most of us are living a life far from the one we dreamed. When a young Christy shared her paper dream with her class, I immediately related because that was me. When I was little, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I always said a wife and a mother. I longed to have a family of my own, to care for and nurture, and love. To make memories in the kitchen baking cookies, to have adventures in the backyard, and tuck my children in at night after reading them a bedtime story, my shelves are full of children’s books. But that is not my life. I want to be fully transparent with you because I believe there is someone out there who needs me to be, it’s hard. To have lived all your life holding on to that paper dream, one that is a good one, and see others receive what you have longed for is not easy.
My life, though filled with many blessings, is not at all what I pictured when I was a little girl. I had a deep longing to see my paper dream fulfilled and wanted it more than anything else which is one reason Matt's words struck me so deep. More than anything else. Those words pierced my soul because it was the hard truth of what I had allowed that paper dream to become and I had to ask myself some difficult questions.
I believe this story is such a beautiful illustration, which is one of the reasons it has stayed with me all these years. I a little side note that I would like to point out, the fact that Christy said God would make us a new one. This grabbed my attention as well because many of us feel as if our paper dreams are gone because of the many mistakes we have made, that we blew our chance at having such a dream. I know that I have many regrets of choices I made, but I also know a wonderful truth about my God. He is One who loves to give second chances. He is the One who can restore and make all things new, all you have to do is give Him your picture. This is another truth about God, He will never demand or rip anything from your hand, He just patiently waits until we are ready to let go, to come to Him and release whats in our hands so He can fill it with something new. Most times, we are like the little girl, afraid to let go of our drawing out of fear that His will not be good, but remember, He is good, that is Who He is and He cannot change. We can completely trust Him and release our dreams knowing that His are so much better than any we could draw.
What are you going to do?
We have a choice to make, to hold onto our dreams even as we watch the chance for them to come true slip away or we can let go and place them in the hands of a loving God. Let me say that I understand this is not as easy as it sounds, we are emotionally invested in our paper dream. Tears are to be expected not ones of anger or bitterness but grief and a sense of loss will be felt, so let them fall. For the single girl who needs to release her paper dream of being married, its okay to cry. For the wife who needs to release her paper dream of having children, its okay to cry. For the woman who lost her parent, spouse, or child, its okay to cry. Tears are a gift, they are part of the process of letting go and are necessary. I'm afraid that the idea of being a strong woman has been pounded into us so much that we feel bad when we cry, that it is a sign of weakness, but that is another lie. Please, don’t be afraid to cry.
I make to make a little point, that while tears are a step in the process they are not a state to reside in. Take the time to cry, just be sure you don't stay there. Some other helpful tools can be:
I would like to challenge us, myself included, to examine our hearts and see if there is anything there that has taken first place over God. Remember that we can trust God with our everything including our dreams because His are always better. How can we be sure? Because He is good. He is our Heavenly Father and incapable of being anything but good. His intentions are always for good and we can trust Him one hundred precent.
It is not an easy thing to do, trust me, I know from experience but the rewards are a heart that is filled with a peace that passes all understanding because it knows all is well. Don’t ever be afraid to give your paper dreams to God, He loves you more than anyone else and knows you like no one else which means He understands your needs. Sometimes when we finally let go of our paper dreams God draws us a new one that looks similar to the old one, I have heard countless stories of just such an incident. Sometimes, though, He doesn’t and that is okay because He is good, I pray you don’t ever forget that truth, God is always good, believe it and rest in it.
I don't remember how long ago it was when I first was introduced to the idea of a blessing jar, but I never forgot the idea. Starting January first, you write down one blessing from that day and place it inside a jar. On December 31st you pull them all out and read them. This was such a wonderful idea but it would take me a couple of years before I decided to implement it and this was the year. Maybe it was because 2020 has been a rough year for so many of us, myself included. A year cloaked with such heaviness and uncertainty.
Personally I felt that in many ways I had lost sight of what was important, of who was in control and allowed my heart to become anxious. The idea of the blessing jar came back to me and as I looked ahead to 2021, I thought it would be a wonderful way to help me renew my mind and shift my focus back to Who is really in control.
God doesn't want us to live in a state of anxiety nor does He want us to focus on the maybes, what ifs, and clouds. We were meant to look to Him, to trust in Him and remember that He is always good.
The idea behind the jar was to make us think, to purposefully choose to look for something good each day. Paul tells the Philippian believers:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8"
When we dwell on the what ifs that means we are not thinking of what is true or even lovely. I know that it is easy to do, trust me, I falter here so often. The blessing jar is a beautiful tool that can help each of us to shift our focus on what is worthy of our thoughts. You know it is easy to see the bad, it requires very little energy since it is visible everywhere we go, but how healthy is it to focus on the bad? Do you know that it actually takes work to see the good, but it is worth it. God is a good God, there is no evil or malice in Him, all His actions are good and that means that every day there is something to be grateful for.
If we make it a practice to look for something to be grateful the result will be a heart that is filled with praise. When we spend the time looking for the blessings, we will find them and be reminded just how amazing and good our God is to us every day. I know that 2020 has been a rough year, but in some ways I wish I would have done the blessing jar last year so that at the end of this interesting year I could have looked back and seen all the good that still took place because it was there. 2021 may still be a tough year, filled with uncertainty over the future, but the goodness of my God is one thing that I can bank on.
As I prepared to do the blessing jar challenge I knew I wanted a special jar, but hadn't started looking for it just yet. I attended a staff Christmas party where we had a gift exchange and low and behold one of the gifts was a beautiful glass jar with a lid that had the word "blessed" carved on top. I knew that it was the jar I had been looking for but one of my co-workers received it instead. Of course, as many of you know, there is a little rule that says you can steal a gift, but I may have bent that rule slightly seeing that it wasn't exactly my turn to steal. I mentioned what I was planning on doing for the upcoming year and my co-worker graciously swapped gifts with me. While it was a funny exchange (my co-worker did enjoy the warm scarf she received for the jar) I couldn't help but smile at the thought of God's care about little things. He knew my desire for a special jar and had one of my co-workers purchase the perfect one, a gift they thought was insignificant held great meaning to me.
Will you join me?
What about you? Are you interested in joining me on this year of blessings? I promise that there is a blessing to be had if we just take the time to look for them. We will never go wrong when we focus on the positive and take note of just how good our God is to us every day. In a world that tends to see the worst, let's be a light that shines into the darkness and remind people that God is good and loves them with an everlasting love.
When we think of the Christmas story our mind tends to go to the stable where lowly shepherds greeted the newborn king, and when we think about the women of Christmas, Elizabeth and Mary are at the forefront. There is, however, another woman who is part of the story, yet she often gets lost (which is understandable since she has only three verses). Though they are small verses, the truths tucked inside them are big. The woman’s name was Anna: a prophetess, a daughter of the tribe of Asher, and a woman over 84 years of age. She only enjoyed seven years of marriage before suffering the loss of her husband, and she was left without children. When many would lose themselves in grief, she turned to God and devoted her life to His service. Anna is a woman who can teach us many things about what is truly important and about where our focus should lie.
A Woman of Perception
Her first lesson to us is that she was a woman of perception. She came upon the scene where Simeon was giving his prophecy of the young child and immediately recognized the significance. How did she know and agree that this was Jesus, the Son of God? What gave her the boldness to approach this little group with such certainty? I believe it is due to the fact that she had spent her life in the presence of God, and when He came in the flesh she knew. Anna was a woman who had given herself to understand the spiritual; all those decades lived in the temple prepared her for this one amazing moment. She was a woman who fasted and prayed both night and day. She was so in tune with God because it was her desire to be. How many of us can say that is our heart’s desire? So often we spend our life in the world, absorbing its philosophies and worldviews. We spend hours investing in things that are temporal and give only moments a day to spending time with God. How many of us would have missed Jesus had He come today? Would we have been sensitive to the Spirit’s leading? May we be like Anna and choose to spend time with our God that we may know Him.
A Woman of Devotion
Anna spent her life at the temple - it is what she lived for, and it was her reason for getting up in the morning. She would have agreed with the Psalmist when he said, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). In fact she never left the Temple but, more than likely, lived in a little area within the walls. She eagerly greeted each day and looked forward to what it would bring as she served her God. How many of us live like that? How many of us have that kind of attitude? What is the first thing on our mind when we get up? Checking our phone? Social media? It is no wonder that many of us struggle to focus during our quiet time and still our hearts before God, because we have already cluttered it with the latest news or update. What would happen if we chose to rise and spend time in God's Word before doing anything else? I believe our minds would be ready to receive our Lord's message and more ready to act upon it if we did. We would quickly realize what truly mattered and be able to walk with greater clarity. May we be like Anna and wake up every day eager to seek the Lord's face first.
A Woman on a Mission
As soon as she had seen the young king and given thanks, she made it her mission to tell others. She wasted no time in passing along the wondrous news that the Messiah had come. She “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She, who had spent her whole life at the temple waiting with great anticipation for the coming of the promised One, had now seen Him with her own eyes, and she had to immediately tell others. She knew the truth and could not hold it inside. Yet how many times have we not spoken? The world is looking for a savior; they are in dire need of a redeemer, yet we hold back. We readily speak to others about the weather, sports, and sometimes even politics, but we hesitate to bring up the eternal. What would happen if we spoke to others about the good news as often as we speak of our family, hobbies, or pets? How much more of an impact would we make if we cared about someone’s eternal soul? May we be like Anna and spread the good news of Jesus Christ with all who would listen and make an eternal difference.
Are You Willing To Be an Anna?
To be an Anna is not an easy thing because it means we must deny ourselves; however, we are selfish by nature. We would prefer to spend our time doing what we like and investing in what we want, but that is not the reason we were given a life. We were given a life so that we might make a difference in our world and in our sphere of influence. When we stand before our God on the day of judgement, will we be ashamed at the many hours we spent on things that didn’t matter and weep over all that was lost? The world is in desperate need of more Annas, of individuals who desire to know their God in such a way that every step, every thought, and every action is guided by Him.
I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.
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