Seventeen-year-old Lillian sat next to an older lady on the train headed for Georgia. The older lady, Mattie Perry, was interested as Lillian told her of her plans for the future. It wasn’t every young lady in 1905 who had such exciting prospects ahead of her! She had a scheduled interview in an Atlanta newspaper office. She clutched her portfolio of her best art with hopes to land the job as a sketch artist.
As they traveled, Miss Perry told Lillian of her work in an orphanage. She too had an exciting life. The orphanage was running by faith; Miss Perry didn’t even know where the next meal (that needed to feed over hundred children) would come from! There were so many needs in the orphanage. In fact, Miss Perry just happened to need an assistant. Lillian wanted to laugh when Miss Perry suddenly offered her a job working with her. No, she was headed for a thrilling career in a busy newspaper office. However, something had been missing from her life. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was. Maybe her new career would satisfy whatever was wrong.
Later at Lillian’s appointment of the Georgian, the man in charge, Mr. Howard, seemed impressed with her artwork. He would need to interview others, but she probably had the job. She just needed to come back the next day. Lillian’s heart soared as she left; she was so close to her dreams and everything that she had worked hard to climb to.
However, when Lillian went to the office the next day, Mr. Howard was out sick. A new man was there who did not know her. It was too bad, the man told her, but someone else had been hired for the job. She would have to come back in a few days to pick up her artwork.
Lillian’s hopes were dashed. She went to the room where she was staying and sobbed and sobbed. But after mourning over her crumbled dreams, it became clear to her that God had something better for her. She stayed in her room until her heart had peace. She found Miss Perry’s address down in her handbag. Without remorse, she knew that she was supposed to work at the orphanage.
A few days later when she picked up her artwork, Mr. Howard was back in the office. He had been looking for her and had not realized that she had come the day he was sick. Lillian told him, “They said you had hired someone else.”
“You were the one I had hired!” he exclaimed. It was too late by this point. He had gone on to the next best person on the list.
As Lillian left that day, her heart was filled with a song. What would have been her dream a week before was gone. God had put her on a different track of something far bigger than she had any idea. By working in the Faith Orphanage in North Carolina, Lillian was training to do the work that God was calling her to do. Like me, Lillian also spent time as a student at God’s Bible School.
Then she was called to Egypt. She ended up starting the first orphanage in Egypt, and for fifty years helped thousands of children and women—during political unrest and upheavals.
Last summer, another teenage girl, my daughter Abigail, (soon to be seventeen) had plans also. She had finished her TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages) class and received certification. She had applied to teach Chinese children online. It seemed like a good venture for a young lady—getting experience and earning a good wage. She thought she could do this teaching early in the morning before her high school senior classes later in the day.
If you know Abigail, you’ll understand how detailed her preparations were. She bought the needed shirt, hand puppets to teach the Chinese, school supplies that would look nice on the wall behind her, and other things. She painstakingly planned each minute detail! For hours!
Then the day came that she received an email. She was rejected. There were no details, no explanation. This stung after everything that she put into it for months!
But she came to me a little while after getting the news and told me, “Mom, remember the story of Lillian Trasher that you read to us? I have put my future in God’s hands. I know that God knows best!” She deleted her account…and walked on.
This school year has been such a full one for Abigail that honestly I am not sure how she would have been able to do what she thought was her dream. And God knew that!
Someday it may be God’s will for Abigail to teach English to Chinese children but not now. It’s so important for Abigail (and her mom) to hold her dreams loosely in her hands.
Lord, change my dreams. Change my plans. You know best.
(The book I read my children was Lillian Trasher: The Greatest Wonder in Egypt by Geoff and Janet Benge.)