By Katie Dobbins
I still remember the car ride home. It was almost 1 o’clock in the morning, and a group of us StoryHeights ladies were piled into a minivan on our way back from She Is Free, my first ever Christian conference. Pastor Ali looked back from the front seat and asked if any of us had experienced any cool moments with God during the event. A few people shared, and I sat in the back seat quietly wondering how to articulate exactly what I had felt come alive in my spirit just a few hours before. Not sure what to make of my God-encounter, I said something lame and mundane like “I never realized how many Christians there are in New York.” Meanwhile my heart was jumping out of my chest, and I spent the next few days walking on Heavenly clouds. Over the next week when people asked me about my weekend, I’d say things like “it was great” or “I feel refreshed.” What I meant was “God completely changed me from the inside out, and my life will never be the same.” But I wasn’t ready to say all that, because I was still trying to understand it myself.
I had just experienced my first big God-moment, I needed some time to process it. He had used a big encounter to spark something inside of me, but just as importantly… He was with me in the days and months after to help me figure it out and walk through it. He’s still walking through it with me, even four years later. God has used this moment as a marker in my life. I’m still able to remember and feel the peace that came over me, the stirring that began in my heart, and the vision God gave me. I remember this, and it helps me remember just how real and tangible He is. And when following my God-given dream gets hard, I am comforted because he orchestrated it, not me, and I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
Pause. Rewind. Let me tell you what happened. First of all, I wasn’t even supposed to be there. I mean I was obviously supposed to be there, but I didn’t know that at the time. I’m a teacher and had thought about going, since the conference fell during my April vacation week. But instead I had decided to buy a train ticket to visit my long-distance boyfriend. I had been praying for quite some time for clarity and peace about our relationship, and when did God decide to give it to me?! About two weeks before She Is Free. The relationship ended, and I got reimbursed for my train ticket. I emailed Pastor Crystal (knowing it was a long shot) and asked if there was any chance I could still go to She Is Free. As it turns out, not so coincidentally, she could no longer go. I took her place, and a week later there I was in a mini-van full of a bunch of girls. I thought, “It’ll be so nice to get out of Boston… I hope we see some cool sights.” Meanwhile God was probably thinking “That’s cute, but I know the plans I have for you.”
I’ve learned that God will speak. I just need to listen. He will provide for me to be at the right place at the right time, to hear what He has to say. But I have to step outside my comfort zone and say yes. When I stepped outside my comfort zone and made myself available to attend She Is Free, everything changed. I had said yes to God, and my heart was ready to receive whatever He had for me. He had to get me out of Boston to finally hear Him, right in the heart of the city that never sleeps.
On the last night of our three-day conference, while the worship band led us in the song No Longer Slaves, an unexplainable peace overcame me. I suddenly felt closer to God than ever. I could feel him smiling down on me, his love pouring out as he called me his daughter. There was no loud booming voice, no thunderous vibration. Just me, God, and peace. I stood there with my arms raised high, unable to move, unable to sing. A memory started playing vividly in my mind – the memory of me standing in my childhood (well, teenage) kitchen, insisting to my earthly dad that I no longer wanted to try to stand out – I just wanted to be average. As God revealed this memory to me, one I hadn’t thought of since the very day it happened, he showed me that both of their hearts had been broken by my words that day. See, God had given me musical gifts that I had explored and loved my whole young life. I had wanted to be a singer for as long as I could remember, but suddenly it had all seemed too hard, too embarrassing, and too impossible. In the moment that God revealed this memory to me, he simultaneously poured out His love and forgiveness and restored me as His daughter. I can’t fully explain what happened (in what was probably all of three minutes).
All I know is from that moment forward I had a deeply rooted God-given dream in my heart to come alive to my childhood passion. I didn’t know why or how, but I knew that God wanted me to use the gifts He had given me. Long story short (is it too late to say that?!), I came back to Boston, started planning to record and release my debut album, and joined the StoryHeights worship team not long after. Years later, I can say that the road hasn’t always been easy. I still sometimes feel vulnerable, afraid, embarrassed, or overwhelmed… but in sticking with God and carrying this dream through together, I have learned so much about His character and so much about myself. When I first sang on the StoryHeights stage, I felt scared and undeserving. But God has reminded me over and over again who I am – His daughter – and as I continue to trust Him and embrace His unwavering love for me, I step more confidently into the plans that He has for me, and there is no place I’d rather be.
God knew that a big God moment was exactly what I needed in that stage in my life. It was powerful, and it permeated the very core of my being. That moment completely changed how I saw myself, how I perceived my role in God’s kingdom, and how I would spend my time and energy moving forward. God continues to speak to me in various ways, but it’s amazing how much that one moment with Him has transformed my life and continues to do so.
When I came back to Boston, I knew I had to get back into music. I didn’t and still don’t know God’s “end game;” I just know I need to use these gifts for some reason, and it feels right. There are many stories in the bible where God speaks or gives a big vision, but it takes a long time for that vision to come to fruition or for the people to fully understand what it means. Jesus is an obvious example. There were so many signs that He was coming woven throughout the Bible, but it didn’t all fully make sense until He came. During our recent church-wide Genesis reading, I was encouraged by Joseph’s story. God gave him a dream that he would be a leader when he was 17 years old. After his brothers sold him into slavery, I’m sure he sometimes wondered how he would ever become a leader. But he remained faithful to God, and he utilized his God-given gifts which impressed Pharaoh and eventually gained him a promotion. Amidst opposition, trials, and a couple decades later, Joseph finally saw the dream God had given him come to life.
I may not know exactly where God wants to take this dream of ours, but I know that if I continue to walk alongside Him, and tune my heart and ears to hear His voice, my life and the lives of those around me will far exceed anything I could have ever dreamed up on my own. Even if I’m only a small part of God’s big miraculous plan and I never get to see the full picture on this Earth, I am elated to have been entrusted with my small role. The journey has allowed me to see God and be in relationship with Him in a new way, and for that I am forever grateful.
Have you seen God work in your life or in the life of someone you love? Have you had a big God moment too? Walk it out with Him. He wants to be part of it. Keep your head up, and keep moving forward, even when the vision He gave you doesn’t come true right away.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11