Following My Dreams
My childhood home was full of love, but I started showing signs of anxiety and nervousness, especially in regard to going to school. Whenever my parents saw my anxiety raising its head, they put me to work. This natural reality check—how to deal with nerves and stress—started me on a lifelong emotional workout program. Putting my body in motion was what I needed to keep my perspective in check. Living on a farm in New Mexico provided endless opportunities to put this into practice. It was here that I watched jets chasing each other over our big hay barn, looping and soaring into the sky—Air Force pilots training in T-38s. “That’s what I want to do,” I said to my mom. I couldn’t shake loose from the idea of becoming a pilot. I would fly airplanes; I just needed a chance.
With no television or telephone on the farm, I fed my hungry mind with the outdoors and with books. Though I wasn’t a Christian at the time, I also read the Bible because it was exciting—the heroes, the romance, and the battles. One summer I read Jungle Pilot, the biography about Nate Saint, a patriotic kid who joined the US Army Air Corps during World War II and was assigned to flight school, only to be disqualified due to a medical condition. Undeterred, he eventually became an aircraft mechanic, a commercial pilot, and then a missionary pilot flying food and medicine to people in remote villages. By joining the military as he had, I could both serve my country and become a pilot. Okay then, I thought. I know exactly what I want to do. I just needed to grow up and set my plans in motion.
I was raised by an upright, moral dad and a godly mom. When I was twelve, my brother, Dwight, and I attended a church camp in the mountains. It had been easy for me to accept God as Creator. But one day after chapel, sitting alone among the pine trees, I came to see that He loved me. Love changes our perspective. I saw that a relationship with God was not about behaving but about believing. I felt fortunate that I experienced real love every day in my family. They loved me, not my behavior. Perhaps when it came to God, behaving wasn’t foremost in His mind either. His one request was that I believe He loved me.
That day, I made the most important decision of my life by following Jesus, who had walked this same earth, going countercultural to prove that race, gender, and age were not factors in receiving God’s favor. He had championed those who lived in the shadows, including women. Since that time I have never faced anything without a champion. What I found wasn’t a religion; it was a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, and it was personal.
My entry into high school that fall was difficult, as I was bullied, but I was thankful for the guardrails of my new faith. I kept to myself, preferring the wide New Mexico countryside. Work was my relief valve, and I was also devoted to journaling, writing poems, prayers, ideas, and thoughts about God. I read my Bible every morning, and 2 Timothy 1:7 caught my eye: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (NASB). It told me that I didn’t have to be afraid of anyone and the Holy Spirit would help me be wise and strong. I started coming out of my shell and leaning into and enjoying life.
The first time I boarded a plane was for a school trip to Washington, DC, my junior year. I had tried to imagine what it would be like to fly, but I wasn’t prepared for the sensation of motionlessness once we arrived above the clouds. It seemed we stood still as the world turned beneath us. I looked down on clouds with the realization that we were actually hanging there, suspended in air. It was confirmation that this was my dream.
What dreams did you have as a child? Which of these dreams do you still have today?
Have you ever realized that God loves you and has plans for you? If you have, how did God’s love change your perspective on life?
What words from the Bible encourage you to walk in faith with Jesus as your champion?