On Recognizing the God-Planted Dreams

March 23, 2011 | 15 comments

He walked into the classroom with his arms raised, that was part of the reason. He was a Roman candle lighting up a room, eyes blazing with what he’d seen.

So before the other students arrived, I had to ask: What in the world happened to you?

It was spring break, he said. And he went to New York City with his camera, and he snapped, like, 500 pictures, and everywhere he went, that hulking Canon went with him, and would I like to sit beside him to see some of the photos?

He popped open his laptop, and I rolled a chair up alongside him. We had eight minutes before class started, and I sat there by a flaming torch of God-glory — a young man figuring out his calling. And did he even know that maybe that’s what this was: a real discovery?

He scrolled, giddy, through his gallery, while jabbing a finger at his favorites.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he asked. He snapped shots on the subway of a preschool-aged girl with brown eyes like saucers and a wee Afro.

“And look at this one,” he said, tapping the screen in staccato. “This … this is my favorite.”
He talked about shutter speed and F-stops and backlit subjects and the way he saturated the color on the skyline shot.

And this man is just 20 years old, and I’m his writing professor with only limited knowledge of photography. But right there, I’m watching a God-planted dream sprout God-sized passion.

I crossed my arms over my chest, leaned back and watched a lit candle burn.

What are you going to do after you toss the mortarboard in the air? I asked him. What’s your calling? What’s your dream?

He shrugged. “Don’t know,” and then: “Here, look, Professor. This is the Staten Island Ferry. Cool, huh?”

Yes, very cool. I continued: Maybe your calling involves a camera?

“I don’t know,” he smiled, shrugged. “Maybe?”

I could hear hope in his voice.

And then, I asked it, because we’re at a Christian college and we can acknowledge straight up that God is the giver of all gifts: “Who put that passion in you? Don’t you suppose God planted this gift in you for a reason?”


I prayed for him on the way home from campus, like I do for all my students. I pray they use their gifts for God’s glory. That’s the motto of our college: Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.

I sent him an email last night, with questions that I now ask of myself — and of you: “Where do your passions lie? Are your dreams a part of your calling?”

“Dream BIG!” I wrote in the email.


How about you?

What did God give you a heart for?
How can you serve God in a way that expresses your heart?
Who are you, at your deepest level, and is fear holding you back from expressing your deepest longings?

I encourage you to visit Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky today, if you have a chance. She has been been writing about art, God-sized dreams, and the connection between dreams and callings. Her posts have stirred some God-planted longings in my own heart. You can find one of her many posts on art and calling here.

Photo submitted as part of the High Calling’s monthly PhotoPlay, led by Claire Burge. Claire has encouraged me to try new things with the camera, to play with art and to take risks. To see differently.

by | March 23, 2011 | 15 comments


  1. Sandra Heska King

    Oh Jennifer! I see your face, and I see Him stamped all over it.

    Reading your words is the next best thing to sitting in your classroom.

    I felt my own heart pound as I read this.

    How often do we miss what God so often drops right on our heads as well as in our hearts?

    It's never too late to start pulling those weeds, is it?

  2. Lindy

    Oh I wish I knew! It's hard to see the God dreams sometimes among the Mommy moments and life moments. I feel I have been searching for years, but it will come. Thank you so much Jennifer! Thank you.

  3. Kay @ Off the Beaten Path

    I'm glad you asked this young man those probing questions. I was a senior in college, determined to light NYC on fire with my career in public relations, when an old boyfriend asked me similar questions. The answer to those questions was that I wanted to teach women's Bible studies. But right after I said that I thought, "Where did that come from?" I had never taught a Bible study and I was barely a woman myself. But I knew that was my God-planted desire. I also knew it wouldn't pay a the mortgage. How could that possibly be what God wanted me to do?

    And, yet, here I am, 20 something years later, and today I'm teaching two Bible studies to women – one this morning and one tonight. Besides writing for women's Christian magazines, writing Bible studies for women, and mentoring women, that's what I do. It still doesn't pay the mortgage, but so far God has enabled my husband to do that 🙂 But I'm so glad that old boyfriend asked that question and I'm equally glad I had the guts (or the foolish naivete) to follow my heart.

    You asked the right questions. Let's hope he comes up with the right answers…

  4. Stephani

    I so needed this Jennifer. I keep saying to myself I wish I would have discovered this passion for photography 40 years ago, but I know that isn't the correct way to think. The passion is in my heart for a reason. I'm trying to bring glory to God with my photos and with my photo blog, but I want to do so much more. It's so easy to dismiss our passions as fanciful. Why do we do that?

  5. shrinkingthecamel.com

    Way to go, encouraging the young people! I wish I had more of that when I was 20 and without a clue. Now I'm 50, and still figuring it out, I guess! Some passions have been fulfilled, some still smoldering. And God's grace goes before me all the way.

  6. Shirl

    What an inspiration today! Your post and the link you shared!!! Gave me things to think about today.

  7. Runner Mom

    Sweet Jennifer–were you listening to my prayer time with God this afternoon???? Mercy! I prayed about these things and now I am seeing them on your wonderful blog! I love how God gets our attention and holds it close to His heart.

    When I taught school, I would pray for my students…many of whom would never see college or even graduate from high school. My prayers for them were survival and safety. Those were precious children and of the 100 or so that were a part of my life, I know of 3 that went to college. I still wonder about them and pray for them all them years later.

    I am headed over to the links that you provided! Can't wait! And, your picture is just gorgeous!!!I haven't had time to pull my canon out and just play lately! But….I will!


  8. Charity Singleton

    I love this. I needed this. I've been dreaming again, after a few years of thinking I couldn't. And I need reminding every now and then that I can dream big. That God puts those passions there for a reason.

  9. Patti Hanan

    Jennifer, Your writing is beautiful. I am always blessed when I visit. It's good to remember God sized dreams are a gift from God.

  10. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    oh sister, my heart is in missions. pray for us as we are trying to submit to God in this area!

  11. JennyRain

    I love how all of the places God has had me rotating around this week (Emily's blog, Claire's posts)… have culminated in your post and challenged me to dream big.

  12. Wanda

    Glad to have stumbled across your blog today. Reading your post has encouraged me to look for ways to use my passions in new ways to please Him.

  13. bluecottonmemory

    That scene is what I miss most about teaching college composition – interacting with students, opening their eyes to what God put within them (though not a Chritian college), even if it is indirectly.

    Helping them see their expectations, dreams and gifts aren't like mismatched socks – but something amazingly beautiful, put together by The Father!

    What an awesome moment you had!

  14. elaine @ peace for the journey

    My passion will always include my pen. I love photography but am poorly equipped to hone that craft. Instead, I enjoy the camera talent of others.

    You're a good teacher; a good encourager, a good friend and mentor to many.


  15. Carey

    Thanks for the insight and for the link to Emily's post. Enjoyed it immensely!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest