One year ago this weekend, I opened my mailbox to find a thick envelope from the Lilly Foundation. I was named one of only nine recipients of a fellowship that would allow me to follow a dream. My dream was to write and edit the first ever full-length anthology of stories about people with disabilities and the working dogs trained to make their lives easier. Could I have known the journey that this project would involve, I am not sure I'd have had the courage to accept the fellowship. The book will be published later this year, God willing. That, in a sense, will be the easy part. I won't try to list the many things I have done for the first time this past year in relation to the project, but a few highlights include extensive media coverage to promote the project, creation of the web site for the project, drafting of all kinds of materials to send to hundreds of schools and organizations to get support and submissions, sorting through over 300 submissions from around the world, conducting countless interviews and writing even more countless pieces about those individuals and their dogs, welcoming and then seeing the departure of an assistant for the project, creating a judging panel of people to help select writings, writing a sixty-nine page book proposal (with more layers than the surface of the earth, studying the process to obtain an agent or publisher, sending to at least two agents or publishers every week, notifying those whose writings were selected for the book, and making a plan for edits and revisions for the book in coming months. There is much ahead, things I won't elaborate on as they make my stomach tight with anxiety about how much of this journey remains. However, it isn't really the list above that has me mark this last year as one of the most challenging and remarkable of my life. Through this process as I handled more work and stress and pressure than I've ever confronted, I started to learn about myself and my God. Again, elaboration isn't necessary here, but suffice it to say that the vision I have of what I think I should be and be able to do is not a mirror image of the vision God has for me and what He has made me specially suited to do in His world. I think in my life before, the forceful power of my intense competitive nature, my intelligence, and my drive have pretty much compensated when my vision for my life didn't match God's, and I didn't get the message about basing my existence on His picture for me instead of mine. This past year, those innate factors of competitiveness, intelligence, and drive weren't enough to make up the difference between my vision and God's vision for me. The deficit was devastating. The realization that God's vision for me is good was lifesaving. I don't remember the lesson every day, but when I do, the realization that God created me with exactly the abilities to do what He wants me to do is magnificent. The fact that He didn't create me always for what I want to do is less impactful when I know that He knows much more than I do. In essence, this Lilly project will yield a book that will change lives. The book will be the tool of change. The process itself has been the tool for my change. As I continue to lean into the truth of this revelation, continue to mourn the loss of what I thought I knew about myself and my potential, and continue to imprint the comforting realities of God's purposes for me upon my heart, I can only imagine the moment when I hold the first copy of this book in my hand. Maybe for me, it won't be binding and paper and printed words and adorable photos of outstanding people and dogs. Maybe it will be a picture of myself, this time satisfied with learning what God created me to be and do. Maybe that is the gift you offered me, Lilly Foundation. Maybe that will be the true reward. If so, Lilly, I thank you.
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