6 years ago, I was working in Beaver Creek, Colorado at a spa. A very very beautiful spa, with very very wealthy clients. Oh, I was bored to tears, losing my mind at the monotony! I already had traveled the world once over, worked in orphanages and churches around the globe, gotten my first college degree. I was just there biding my time, not really knowing what came next. There were many times where I was dazzled by someone’s particular wealth or status, but later I would remember they were just human, like me. I could never get on board with the life of the tourism industry, or with the upscale service industry. There was always a dream nagging the back of my mind, and the feeling that I was made to do something…I don’t know, different.
I stood in the middle of the floor one day, right next to my concierge desk, and poured out my heart to a friend who had stopped in during his lunch. I can still clearly remember the scene—a well manicured boutique with well manicured spa guests quietly milling around in bathrobes. Living here, being here, it was the dream! People were always coming to Vail to “live the life” and mingle with the wealthy and ski all winter. This was not MY dream, though. I specifically remember saying, “You know what I envision? Traveling around the world to visit all sorts of missionaries. Taking their family photos, because missionaries notoriously have some of the worst family photos. They spend their lives and all their energy pouring themselves out to the people they are called to be with, and have no time to properly document their work. I want to honor them and document their lives. I want to show them the impact they are making for the Kingdom. And I want to photograph the people they love—not just their families, but the ones they are called to. They are beautiful people, and hurting people, all over the place. I want to honor them too, and tell their stories.”
A few weeks later, I got caught at my desk reading blogs and crocheting. And then I got caught a second time. Ohmygosh, I was bored out of my mind sitting behind that desk! I was called into the manager’s office, and written up for my subordination. Then, this woman, only a few years older than me, said the wisest and most liberating thing a manager could say. “Kathryn, this is not a career for you. There are a hundred people who would be perfectly satisfied with this job, and you’re not one of them. You are smart, and you are a thinker. You have dreams. Why don’t you go pursue them? What is it that you really desire?” I told her that I was beginning to think I wanted to go to school and study photography, so that I could offer the very best when it was time for me to travel the world as a “photographer to the missionaries”. She gave me her blessing, and told me that I should seriously consider it.
So, I quit. I left Vail for a time, and went to school in Denver and studied photography. Of course, my dreams got questioned and muddled at school. Discouragement came in spades. I was one of the only Christians among a lot of artists, confused people, and bold atheists and eastern spirituality practicers. I was told to do something more practical, like pursue business. Pursue commercial photography. Pursue owning a business and my own good, and then if I had any spare time left over, maybe maybe then I could do a bit of volunteer work on the side. There was much confusion, of course. I got sucked in more than one time.
Fast forward to January of this year. 2 years after my graduation, 6 years after my first telling of my dream. I found myself in San Jose, Costa Rica, sitting across the table from a wonderful lady who does pastoral ministry with her husband. From the beginning of our conversation, I felt like she was an old friend, someone I wanted to simply place myself around. As she shared about her ministry and life work, she said, “We so need someone down here who can tell our stories. We spend all our energy actually doing the work we were called to do, and pouring ourselves out to the people here. When it comes time to share about our work, we are overwhelmed and cannot do it very well. We need someone who is specifically gifted in this.”
In my years in school, I felt like my dream was put on the examination table and dissected by a bunch of skeptics. When I went to Africa right after school, I felt like the remains of my dream were kicked into the dust. When I moved to Alaska, I laid down my dream and told God that I only wanted Him; if He ever chose to restore things, I would be grateful, but I would be content with either way things turned out. And then in Costa Rica, it was like someone took that dream, showed me how it had been reborn—fresh, new, stronger, and more glorious than before—and placed it back in my hands. A gift. A treasure.
Last year, I read a book by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales. In Me, Myself, and Bob, he talks about the rise and fall of his dream, his empire, and eventually his need to declare bankruptcy. His dream was simple in the beginning, got muddied and complicated in the middle, and ended up falling apart. He heard a young preacher say at one point, “If God gives you a dream, and the dream comes to life and God shows up in it, and then the dream dies, it may be that God wants to see what is more important to you—the dream or Him”. That was the game changer. For he and I both, really.
It is the American way to have big dreams, and to be encouraged in it from our infancy. However, it is far sweeter to lay the “somedays” and “I wishes” down at the feet of a good good Father and see how He chooses to use them.