Fall Discovery: How to Give a Dream Back

Earlier this year, I read a book by Ann Voskamp called Waymaker: Finding The Way to the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of. The tag line seems unattainable. Maybe even self helpish at first look. If you follow Ann, however, then you know that the way to that life is by giving away your life to a very present God, often through a time of suffering and sacrifice.

Ann is a woman that I admire. During a handful of dark and chaotic years, I clung to her words. I even kept of few lines of her book The Broken Way in my wallet. I remember connecting with a friend who was suffering in similar ways. She also felt connected to Ann’s words.

Ann’s most recent book has a small thread of the story of Hannah. Just a few paragraphs have stayed with me. Ann’s words are the inspiration for this post, How to Give A Dream Back.

The Story of Hannah

Hannah is our infertile sister with a husband who loved her dearly. As was the Jewish custom, families, including Hannah’s, annually traveled to Shiloh as a pilgrimage. Shiloh held the tabernacle which was the earthly dwelling place of God for worship and sacrifice. In the Torah, sacrifice, or Korban, is different from our modern understanding of the word.

We think of sacrifice as giving up something of value for the sake of something else that is regarded as more important or worthy. Korban, or Jewish sacrifice, was about making an offering to draw near to God. Korban was a way to move into a closer relationship with God. It was an expression of gratitude and joy, and it was a path to remove obstacles caused by sin.

Jewish pilgrims offered a sacrifice to God and then sat down together for a communal meal with the remainder of the sacrifice. The meal included a time of worship and singing and exemplified a commitment to justice and ethics. All of this was difficult for Hannah because her husband’s second wife used the pilgrimage as an opportunity to taunt her infertility. The second wife had birthed multiple children to their husband.

This particular year, Hannah slipped away to the temple steps to pray to God with tears. She poured out her heart asking God not to forget her and grant her a son. Her prayer included a promise to God. I’ve included her prayer in three translations so that you will find one to connect with.

Lord of Armies, if you will take notice of your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.

1 Sam 1:11 CSB

Oh God of the Angel Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I will set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

1 Sam 1:11MSG

O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime.

1 Samuel 1:11 NLT

You can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.

Who does that?

In her book, Ann says of Hannah –

Why ask God to make a way – and then give back to the WayMaker that very dream that He made a way to? Who does that?

Who does that?

I stayed there for a while.

Who does that?

Honestly, who does do that?

Ann goes on to say,

Someone who doesn’t want anything to get in the way between her and God.

Imagine Hannah

Imagine Hannah in her pain and desperation. She had probably asked God every year, for years, for a child. This particular year was different. Perhaps she embraced Korban in a way she hadn’t before. She offered herself with tears and she offered to give back the one thing she so deeply desired – a child.

We all have intimately asked God for something we deeply desire. We want for all kinds of reasons. Some of our reasons are pure and honest like Hannah’s Korban prayer. Sometimes we can mix up the dream with other things. Perhaps in past years, Hannah’s desire for a child was more about avenging the second wife and less about glorifying God. Perhaps her prayers were more about elevating her appearance in the community by becoming a mother instead of giving herself fully to a God that loves her as she is.

When we deeply desire something good, the gift can get wrapped up in the draws and measures of this world. We can shrink in the trap of comparison like Hannah may have. We can look to appearances for security like Hannah may have. I don’t judge Hannah and I won’t judge us.

A Dream Revisited

God has given me a desire to share myself through words. Upon the grandiose standards of today, well, you know what that looks like. Books on shelves. Podcasts. Social media notoriety.

If I travel back in time, over the years of this gift in my life, it has been about deep community, encouragement and sharing from the heart.

The dream has a mission statement:

Bloom where you are planted. Grow in the quiet of God’s spirit. Look deeply in to see the needs of others. Write and rest and be with your people.

The dream of sharing words plays out very well in my tightly knit bible study community, with local women, extended friends from past and present and on the blog. Less so on social media or at speaking engagements. The dream plays out well where God intends it to play out well.

My dream, in its pure form, is not mine. The dream lives within me as a gift to share with others. In that sharing, I have the honor of glorifying the Father. I feel joy and gratitude. This is Korban.

In pure form, gifts or dreams exist without reference to comparison or appearances. Gifts grow out of Korban prayer. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. If comparison or appearances or whatever “extras” you struggle with stand between you and your gift, go back to Shiloh. Take the pilgrimage in prayer. Pour out your heart and soul on the temple steps. Remember Hannah. Let her be your courage as you lay down your desires before God.

Remember, it’s hard to give back dreams wherein we have written a lot of our own footnotes. It’s freeing to give back the dreams that He actually gave us.

Coffee with a Friend Revisited

Last week, I met a newish friend for coffee for our second annual meet up. She understands what it is to be a person with a dream. She shared that dreamers tend to want the dream to change the world because passion fuels the dream. We both quietly acknowledged that such things as doubt and disappointment are real things when it comes to dreams and passion. She kindly shared that my dreams have a valuable thumbprint right here in the space that matters; beyond what I am able to see.

That is the kind of dream you and I can legitimately give away. The kind that matter close to home and beyond what we are able to see.

The giving away may not make total sense in the way of our modern understanding of sacrifice. But we can in the way of Korban.

Sacrifice: Giving up something of value for the sake of something else that is regarded as more important or worthy.

Korban: Making an offering to draw near to God. A way to move into a closer relationship with God. An expression of gratitude and joy.

In the Korban way, we can give our dreams back to God. In the Korban way, we can be women who don’t let anything get in the way between us and God.

Thank you Ann.

I can’t wait to meet you Hannah.

Reflection Questions:

  • Is there an author or speaker that you admire? Who and why?
  • What has been a common thread in your life when it comes to gifts or dreams that God has given you? Have you freely given back your dream to God? Why or why not? If not, look for verses that give you courage to give your dream back.
  • Do you have a dream? Does your dream have a mission statement? If not, ask God to inspire you to write one now.
  • Do you relate to Hannah? Have you ever cried out to God for something? How did God answer you?
  • Think about the differences between the modern word sacrifice and Korban. I feel a deeper sense of intimacy around receiving from God and giving back to Him. How does the newfound meaning impact you?
  • Have you had coffee or tea with a friend lately? If not, please do.



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Fall Discovery: How to Find Solitude

Solitude is quiet within.

Do you like the sound and feel of that statement?

Hearing the words quiet within is like the sound of the ocean waves rolling onto the sand.

Quiet within looks like sun beams coming down through your window into your home.

Quiet within is a deep desire of our beating hearts. We crave it. But we lack patience and priority. Even though all of what we may need lies within a time of quiet, we have a hard time passing through the noise and motivating ourselves to get there.

How are you doing with quiet within?

Do you know how to turn off your internal volume?

Did you know that solitude is a spiritual practice?

“Scriptural solitude is the biblical practice of temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes.”

– Donald Whitney

Solitude is  . . . “intentional time in the quiet to be alone with God.”

– John Marc Comer

This post is about how to find solitude when your off button is missing or lost.

A Bit of My Story

I got to a point in 2016 where my internal noise was so chaotic and untamed that it shouted out in the form of panic and anxiety. I did not have a turn off button. Circumstantially, my internal ruckus made perfect sense. Practically, the days and nights were overwhelming and emotional.

Over time, with help, I transformed the chaos to order and tamed my thoughts with reason. I practiced. I learned how to find and use my turn off button. If you want to know more about that particular time in my life, my friend and women’s ministry leader Annie Harley, gifted me with a short video testimony. You can take a look at the three minute version of what I learned through 2016 to 2018.

My First Practice: Vinyasa Yoga

One of the earliest methods I used to calm down was Vinyasa Yoga. Let’s not get too deep or existential. Yoga helped me with solitude for one primary reason. If you don’t constantly listen to the teacher, you will get lost in the class. In dim light, you listen to the teacher’s words for instructions to move through the hour long flow.

My licensed therapist with a seminary degree suggested yoga to me because he knew something about me that I didn’t. My brain could not simultaneously run its chaos and follow along in a yoga class. My mind took the logical jump to be present in the class rather than remain present in my 2016 mess. Clearly, that jump was the Holy Spirit’s work to help me cut through the noise.

Just before Christmas last year, I came back to yoga. I set a holy intention at the beginning of the class which typically relates to my chosen verse of the week. By the end of class, I can hear God’s wisdom during shavasana (end of class relaxation). Truly, I can hear him speak and I am grateful. This is not an advertisement to buy a membership at a yoga studio. It’s a practice I use to find solitude.

My Second Practice: Beach Walks

The other way I find solitude is through beach walks. My soul settles when I feel sun rays warming my skin. The warmth on my skin somehow levels the thoughts in my mind. Almost immediately, I feel God with me.

As I walk down A1A, I listen to the rock music that the construction workers play. I note the rhythmic sound of chirping birds and the crickets. I listen in on the instructional talk between the teacher and the student scuba divers. I nod at the wrinkled, tanned old men in beach chairs. I smile back at the dogs running ahead of their owners in their morning happy. I look at the beach bungalows being repaired one after another for their 40 year city certification.

I come prepared with ear buds, loaded podcasts and play lists, but I never listen. I don’t worry for those thirty five minutes either. I find solitude. As soon as I find it, I sense that God is moving down the street with me.

What do you find in solitude?

Internal quietness in the presence of God offers the gift of truth. Solitude replaces your version of chaos and untamed thoughts with what your soul really needs to know; with what your soul really needs to hear.

What does your soul need to know and hear? You can find the answer in solitude.

You cannot find truth while intermittently texting, googling, snapping or checking FB, IG or Twitter. You can’t find truth while adding to your to do list between bible verses. You can’t comprehend biblical wisdom while cooking during online church. You can’t find truth in chocolate or binge watching.  

I like scrolling, to do lists, cooking, tv and chocolate. Frankly, I feel God’s presence while doing many of the things I like. Even so, God calls me and us to solitude.

Solitude teaches us the truth about what we actually need in our need. We don’t necessarily need the outcome we are hoping for OR the answers we greatly desire. Circumstantial relief is not reliable in the world of time and space that we live in. But the presence and comfort of the Trinity is a promise.

When I am in the midst of worry, change, loneliness, pressure or problem solving, I can be disturbed by my tendency to fill up my chest with my need for answers and outcome. I think I know how to get relief. My mind conjures up answers with to do lists. But, in solitude, I am led to find that my need is his presence. Everything I desire lies in his presence.

Questions to ask in solitude

As I gear up for my beach walk, I ask God, “What are you up to and What do you have to say?”

This is a good way to start because it lets God set the tone. If left to me and my quivering heart, I would jump to – God, what have I done wrong and how can I do better? I know those aren’t the questions he’s looking for me to ask. I order the conversation with God going first.

This positive practice of ordering the conversation has taught me that my father has good things to say. Along those same lines, his plans are good. Even though I may have hard or bad things happening in my life at any given time, his goodness tells me that the outcome also will be good.

We are not waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are not waiting for God to turn his back because he has other stuff going on. I don’t know exactly how I have reconciled bad things with his goodness, but solitude plays a role. His truth rather than my faulty truth becomes central when I am committed to the practice of solitude.

Are you convinced that solitude is a worthy spiritual practice? Are you already practicing it? Will you give it a try?

Reflection Questions

  • Have you thought about the spiritual practice of solitude lately? In what ways are you practicing it now?
  • I really like sitting at my desk by the window at home. But I am rarely alone at home. I find it too hard to escape questions and chit chat so I head out to nearby places to practice solitude. Practically speaking, when and how could you carve out solitude in your week?
  • We think we know what we need in our need. Think about letting God’s presence and wisdom inform what you actually need. Spend some time in solitude. Journal how God may have changed your view of what you need. What’s different? How do you feel?
  • Solitude helps us reconcile the hard things in our life with his goodness. In solitude, welcome God to speak to whatever is hard – your heart, a relationship, a loss, a financial situation. God’s thoughts are higher and kinder than our thoughts. Let him show you his goodness in solitude.



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Fall Discovery: How to Kick Off Fall

It is, indeed, possible to celebrate all that is good and beautiful during the golden harvest days, while at the same time reconciling the reality of all that has been upended by pain, health troubles, relational conflicts.

Jennifer Dukes Lee, Growing Slow: Lessons on Unhurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl

We are not farm girls. We are Florida girls who know no change of seasons whatsoever. Yet, we know the abundance that is intrinsic in Fall. We celebrate with plaid shirts and booties even though it’s 80 degrees. Our churches and schools haul in truckloads of pumpkins and gourds for photo ops. We bake with apples, pears and cranberries that come from somewhere else. Even so, we treasure the harvest.

We know growth and we welcome fruit when it appears.

My bucket lists are a lot about bearing fruit. They are intentional guides to help you live out love, self care, creativity and hospitality in every season.

I truly wasn’t sure if I would craft a bucket list this Fall. But then a friend asked me to make a bucket list for her pastor’s wives retreat. After I finished that project, I changed up a few of the items to cover those of us ladies who are not married to a pastor, or not married at all.

I hope you’ll print this bucket list and put it on your desk or in your purse. I will probably stick a copy in my planner. I mark off each item as I go and try to remember to take a pic of the thing that I did for remembrance.

  • My hope is that through monthly coffee with a new friend, you’ll grow deep roots of friendship and exemplify community to others.
  • My wish is that you’ll have fun and maybe even feel unexpectedly brave with a seasonal, signature lipstick.
  • I am already smiling at the thought of you dropping off a fall basket on a friend’s doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running back to your car before you’re seen.

Two Things at Once?

I see you doing all of these things despite the pain, troubles and conflicts you’ve been living. It’s okay to do two things at once. I have always loved Fall, but I love it differently now. That’s because I’m okay with doubting and believing at the same time. I am okay with growing and being pruned in the same moment. I’ve learned to face the hard circumstance and also be filled with hope. I can be confident and also not know what is going to happen next. It’s okay to do two things at once.

Girls, even Florida girls, live the Fall bucket list. Celebrate the season of harvest. Even if you are sure it’s not your season of fruit, embrace the season that promises the coming of fruit. Reconcile, grow and celebrate all at the same time.

Love you always,


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