The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.
One year ago, God dropped a seed of a dream for my city in my heart. As with any seed, this dream broke open, took root in the dark and hidden places, pushed through the surface, and began to sprout. And though I am still a long way from seeing the fulfillment of this dream, already, one year on, I see small buds beginning to burst into bloom.
I wanted to write this blog post months ago, but could never find the words. Today, though, I find that I can’t hold back. Today I write to remind myself of where I have been and where God has led me. At times I feel afraid, at times this feels all too big for me, but today I choose to emerge from the shadows and write from a place of faith, trusting that God will fulfill every promise he has made to me.
But, first, some backstory: When I moved back to the Bay Area in September of 2012, I returned with dreams and high hopes, knowing God had called me home. However, one by one, I saw each dream and hope die before my eyes, culminating in an incident where I was mugged on the streets of San Jose.
Somehow, I felt no fear, no bitterness, no anger, and no resentment; instead, God planted in my heart a deep compassion for the person who mugged me and for every desperate, broken soul in this city that he represented. From that moment on, I knew with undeniable certainty that God had specifically brought me to San Jose for a reason far greater than I could see.
From there, I spent two years in graduate school, completing a Master’s in Social Work, where I stared deep into the face of trauma and brokenness here in our city, and allowed God to teach me of compassion, of prayer, of sustaining grace and radical hope in the midst of impossible circumstances. As I neared the end of graduate school, I felt God subtly nudging me away from the job I had planned to take. I turned down that job offer, but as I asked God for clarity and direction, He responded, not with an answer or a directive, but with a simple question: “What do you want?”
So I scribbled out a few paragraphs in my journal of what I knew I was created to do—to carry light and hope into dark places, to see poor and broken communities healed and transformed with the love of God—but the details eluded me. I couldn’t name the desire hidden deep in my heart. After years of disappointed dreams and delayed hopes, it felt too vulnerable to say in so many words, “This is what I want. This is what I hope for.”
Ultimately, I left it all in God’s hands: “God, I know you are with me and I know you are for me. You have led me every step of the way, and your dreams for my life have always turned out better than my dreams. Whatever you tell me to do, I will do. Wherever you tell me to go, I will go.”
Four days later, I sang a song of surrender sitting at my piano—“My life is not my own; to you I belong. I give myself, I give myself away.” And in that open, vulnerable, waiting, empty space, God dropped His dream in my heart. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; in fact, it was very simple and very small—I saw myself living in a local low-income neighborhood, meeting my neighbors, and supporting an arts program run by my church—but tears streamed down my face because I knew this was the hidden desire of my heart I could not articulate. I knew somehow this would be my job and my livelihood, and that God had known and planned it all along.
That was May 2015. Within a few weeks, every one of my commitments ended: I graduated from both graduate school and ministry school, I completed my internship, I stepped out of a few leadership roles. God was removing old things from my life to make room for the new.
In the meantime, I left my part-time administrative job and turned down a few job offers, never searching for a backup job, fully confident that God would provide the job he promised to me. In July, my faith began to waver when I was told there were no job opportunities available for me, but God in his goodness had led me to this verse in Isaiah just that morning: “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
God reminded me that this dream was never my dream; it had always been his dream from the very beginning, so he would be the one to make it happen. I realized then that the job God promised me didn’t exist yet; I would have to create my job out of nothing and make it up as I went along.
It would be a full seven months before I would be hired (through a series of odd, impossible circumstances), but I needed each day of those seven months to water the seed of the dream in prayer and to allow the seed to break open, take root, and grow. I needed each quiet and hidden day to prepare my heart for the work He had called me to do: He expanded my understanding of who He is for me, He deepened my identity as His daughter, and He daily cleared out fear and shame and replaced them with love.
In those seven months, I began to see how God had been orchestrating this dream and my place in it for years. I learned that this neighborhood was directly across the street from the high school where I had been counseling students all year long. For months I had prayed over that school and its students, over the surrounding neighborhoods and the families who lived there, never imagining that I was praying into my future.
I also realized that God had been waiting for the perfect moment to release this dream into my life, at a time when it would be catalytic not just in my own life, but also for my city. I had been carrying a dream like Joseph had carried his dreams, through slavery and imprisonment, through long and silent years, but the fulfillment of the dream came at the opportune moment when he was positioned to save not only his own life, but the lives of his family, his entire nation, the generations leading up to Jesus, and the entire nation of Egypt.
So, too, I recognized that the dream God had dropped into my heart was only the seed of a dream that needed to be broken open, that this dream needed room to grow into something much bigger than myself, much bigger than one small neighborhood. As I prayed and as I allowed God to widen the scope of my dream, I realized that I was meant to do so much more than move into a neighborhood, meet my neighbors, and support an arts program. I was meant to lead an army of people to do what I saw myself doing, not just in one neighborhood, but in neighborhoods all over the city, and beyond.
It has been over a year now since I took my first step on the pathway this dream paved for me. Already, this pathway has twisted and turned through valleys and mountains of fear, shame, doubt, and opposition. This pathway has led me through quicksand and caverns, but I have felt Him build the pathway beneath me even in times of fear and uncertainty.
Today, this pathway has led me to a valley, void and formless, Spirit hovering, waiting to birth new life. And I see again that this is hardly the beginning, that of all that I have seen and all that God has done, it is nothing compared to the glory that is yet to come.
This seed of a dream will not be the only cherry tree in a vast empty valley. This dream tree will find its place in the orchard of new dreams, with leaves for healing and fruit sweet enough to eat. This orchard will stretch far beyond the eye can see.
And all from a seed of a dream planted in my heart in response to a quiet question echoing through my days, “Kathryn, what do you want?”