As a child, I had a lazy eye and blurred vision, which made it necessary for me to wear glasses from the time I was seven years old. In order to keep my myopia from worsening, I had strict limits on my reading—no reading at night, and any reading only allowed when sitting at a desk with a bright desk lamp and proper posture. Watching television or movies was something that had to be minimized, along with other eye-straining hobbies, such as painting, sewing, and crafts.
It’s well known that in fiction, plots along the lines of “Matilda is happy, beautiful, successful, and will live happily-ever-after-forever-and-ever” don’t make the most captivating stories or become bestsellers. Even picture books for children need to involve some kind of tension—an obstacle that the child needs to work through in order to achieve his or her happy ending. Whether it’s a little boy handling his first day of school, or a little girl learning to share her toys, the story isn’t captivating if it starts off perfect.
Not even the dark clouds and gusts of the icy wind outside seemed as bleak and cold as my heart. As I pulled a saucepan from the cupboard, measured water and dried beans into it, and turned on the stove, my mind wandered, retracing the events of the previous weeks and months.
Two dreams were the start of Joseph’s troubles.
“Listen to this dream,” Joseph told his 11 brothers. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”
When I was an idealistic fourteen-year-old, I read a biography of David Brainerd. I loved reading about missionaries like David Livingstone, C. T. Studd, and Amy Carmichael. They seemed to have no trouble inspiring devoted converts who made every sacrifice visibly worthwhile. But Brainerd’s story got off to a tragic start. The reason I remember so clearly how old I was when I read about him is because by the time he was my age, he was an orphan. I still had both of my parents, with many happy years left to enjoy both of them.
When I started mapping out my goals five years ago, achieving them seemed daunting. But I claimed the promise, “Faithful is he [God] that calleth you, who also will do it,”1 and with His help, I went forward. My plan was to write and create thousands of pages of good-quality faith-building books for children.
It was one of those days when anything could make me angry. I was sad, irritable, made a big deal out of small inconveniences, and couldn’t stop thinking of negative outcomes or repercussions. But the day had to go on regardless. I had work to do, deadlines to meet, and part of my job was meeting with people and being the one to brighten their day. Ever been in this kind of predicament?
When suffering a big loss or being overwhelmed by life’s obstacles, changes, and problems, it can almost seem impossible or hopeless to win—but this is when putting up a fight and giving it your best effort can result in a major, “impossible,” come-from-behind victory that changes history.
“The Man Who Planted Trees,” by Jean Giono, is the allegorical tale of Elzéard Bouffier, a humble shepherd who single-handedly transformed a barren region of southern France by planting nuts as he watched his sheep graze on a different hillside each day. It also inspired the motto that appears on the cover of each issue of Activated: “Change your life. Change your world.”
Any mother who’s tried to get her toddler to sit still long enough to finish a mealcan tell you about children’s short attention spans, but there are also moments when they’re driven to learn a new skill, such as picking up a small object with chubby little fingers, or crawling, or walking. These new skills require a huge amount of concentration and effort—and a great deal of time, compared to the child’s short life up to that point. They also put demands on muscles that are just beginning to learn coordination and are barely strong enough to sustain the child’s weight.