By Ashley McIlwain
That’s right, seven years. It was seven years ago that I had a dream. Well, it was more of an inkling of a dream. At the time it was barely a formulated thought let alone a plan, but it was still the start of a dream. Though it was foggy at best and I wrestled to put words to it, deep within me, I knew it was something special.
Over the course of two years, that dream began to take shape and the blurriness gave way to clarity. It was the dream to start a non-profit organization that would minister to marriages … Foundation Restoration. The Lord gently whispered the dream into the deepest part of my soul and being to where I couldn’t ignore it. The purpose was clear: help restore the foundation of society – marriages.
I would be lying to say that the only emotion that overcame me was excitement. Yes, I was filled with joy at the notion that the Lord had considered me worthy of such a task, but I was also filled with terror. Insecurities, questions, and self-doubt immediately plagued me. How would I ever accomplish such a mighty task with such a meager skillset? I was certain that the Lord had made a mistake, and if I’m being very honest, it’s a feeling I’ve battled every step of this journey.
You see, God gave me a dream that was way bigger than my abilities, my comfort level, or my talents. He gave me an impossible dream that both thrilled and terrified me. It was a dream of something so much greater than me, and I knew it surpassed anything I would have come up with on my own.
But that’s how God works. He doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. It’s in our weakness, we seek His strength. It’s in our ignorance that we thirst for His wisdom. It’s in our insufficiencies that we realize the depth and breadth of our dependence on Him. It’s in our fear that we cultivate unshakeable faith. It’s in the struggle that we develop spiritual endurance. It’s in the perfectionism and striving that we ultimately unveil the peace that comes from an approval and love not contingent on our performance.
God is faithful and trustworthy. His plans are to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He is capable of doing immeasurably more than anything we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). Anyone who says being a Christ follower is a boring and uneventful endeavor has never accepted His invitation for an adventure. Trust me, I know!
So, these past seven years since the seed of this dream was planted, I’ve ventured out of the boat knowing that He will never allow me to sink but rather wants me to soar. I’ve laughed and cried, succeeded and failed, trusted and feared, rejoiced and mourned, prayed and prayed some more. But more than anything I’ve given thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving that, as Foundation Restoration turns five on May 27, 2015, lives have been touched through our resources. We’ve been able to help prepare couples who are making their way toward the wedding aisle. We’ve come alongside of couples at every stage, struggling and thriving alike, to encourage, educate, motivate, challenge, and inspire them. Witnessing marriages be equipped, strengthened, and restored is an indescribable feeling.
To look back on the past five years and peruse emails sent from people like you sharing their stories, heartbreaks, and victories. To close my eyes and picture the faces of those I’ve spoken to at events I’ve had the privilege of sharing at. To look at our followers on social media and know that those are each lives we have the honor of being a part of. To hear people tell of the encouragement, hope, or lessons they’ve learned from the things we’ve created. It’s overwhelming, humbling, and exciting all rolled into one.
It’s amazing to think that, if we’re only willing to accept the Lord’s invitation into His work, we can make a difference. Maybe not in a billion lives. Maybe not in a million lives. Maybe not even in a thousand lives. But we can make a difference in at least one life, and that makes it all worth it.
I don’t know what’s to come for Foundation Restoration in the next five, ten, or fifteen years. Sure, I have lots of dreams and plans for it, but I hold them loosely because I never want to limit what God can do through me because of stubbornness or pride. Many are the plans in a man’s heart but only the Lord’s prevail (Proverbs 19:21). What I do know, is I can’t wait!
My encouragement to you would be two things …
First, don’t be afraid to dream big. God has gifted you with unique talents, abilities, skills, passions, and dreams that He wants to breathe life into. He wants to use you, and He is just waiting for you to step out in faith. What if, just what if, you got out of the boat? And what if, just what if, you got to walk on water? Often times we read that story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), and all we focus on is that he began to sink. We label his efforts a failure and miss out on the wonder of that story. Peter walked on water. Even if it was three steps, he successfully did what no one else was courageous enough to do. And Jesus was right there to make sure he didn’t sink. I’d say that’s a story of success.
God is painting a masterpiece, and we are the paintbrush within the Artist’s hands. So, in the words of Jesus, don’t be afraid (Matthew 14:27). Trust Him with your dreams, and make the most of every opportunity He’s given you. When making a huge leap of faith recently, my mom said it this way … You can never have too much faith or dream too big with God. You can never out dream God, but feel free to try. You will be amazed at what He can do with an obedient and willing life.
Secondly, come alongside of those dreamers in your life. Those Peters who are, against every instinct, stepping out in faith and trusting the Lord. It is scary and difficult, especially when the circumstances around us threaten to consume us, and we need people who believe in our dreams. People who cheer us on, encourage us, and pray for us. People who can see the big picture even when it’s not been painted yet. Every dreamer needs supporters. If it weren’t for my husband and family, I probably would have drowned a long time ago. God gave me a select few who loved me enough to believe in the vision God had given me, and they’ve never stopped. They are a testament of God’s provision and goodness and a constant reminder that He loved me enough to bless me with their support.
So who can you come alongside of and encourage, pray for, support, help, and rally with?
The past five years have been some of the most rewarding of my life. It’s such an honor to utilize what the Lord has gifted me with to a cause I am so passionate about. I’m convinced that marriages are the single most important human relationship that exists because it is the relationship that all else is built upon. It’s the very foundation of our families, communities, and world! It’s the heartbeat of our society, and it’s worth fighting for. That’s what I intend to do … continue the fight for marriages in the years ahead, and I pray that you will join me!
This Giveaway has ended! Congratulations to our winner … Alicia!!!
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