Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What I Learned When My Dreams Were Shattered…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

Imagine my surprise when, at age fourteen, I actually got to meet my idol – Hayley Mills! 

We were both aboard the final voyage of that great ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth I. It was a heady moment, I assure you. And, of course I have an old-fashioned “selfie” to commemorate it.

For those of you too young to remember, Hayley Mills was the Disney darling who starred in many films such as Pollyanna and The Parent Trap.

Not only was I a fan and admired her, I actually wanted to be her. 

To the extent that for at least a year I had styled my hair the same as she did in Pollyanna and even wore drop waisted dresses with black stockings. Oh yeah. That was my dream.

One day, at age ten, I sat down and wrote Hayley Mills a letter. (This is your first hint that I am destined to become a writer…)  I had decided if I couldn’t beher, I could possibly be the next best thing – a child movie star. But I needed her advice…

I began (as any good fan letter does) with a full-on gush –“You are my favorite movie star!” and continued on to the meat of the matter… “How do you become a movie star? I want to be one while I am a child.”

Then, of course, I listed a few credentials to impress her: “When our school has plays or recitals I always join in. I’m not scared to go on stage at all. I’ve been the leading part on most of my plays. I’m not bragging, I just want some tips on acting. I can sing, act, and dance. I’ve been taking music for 2 years.”

Wow. Two whole years of music lessons! Now that I had her attention and formed a kindred spirit bond, we could get to a few more details…“You’ve sent lots of my friends postcards and pictures. But I want and need a long letter from you.”

There you go. Surely Hayley would begin to open doors to my new career as a child movie star! What with all that talent and experience why I might even give her some competition for the next Disney movie…

Nonetheless, my insecurity resurrected as I prepared my closing and I was not too proud to beg.“Please, I want to be a young movie star so bad. Please write me a long letter. Your best of friends, Cindy Secrest, 10 years old.”

I know you are waiting on the edge of your seat to discover what kind of reply I received from Hayley Mills. The answer is – nothing.

But since I have in my hand a faded and wrinkled piece of paper that looks strangely like the original I asked my parents to mail, I can only surmise that, due to not knowing her address,they absent mindedly tucked it into a file somewhere only to be retrieved a few decades later.

I don’t blame Mama and Daddy for singlehandedly putting the kibosh on all my child acting dreams. I’m not bitter…

When I met Hayley Mills on the Queen Elizabeth I,I was a young teenager coming home from the London sights of Carnaby Street and Abbey Road, Twiggy and the Beatles. I was way too cool to ask her for acting tips... 

Looking back, I am filled with perspective.

You see, God had other plans for that bold, outspoken, singing, dancing, acting character who was never afraid to go on stage.

I kept pursuing dreams.I tried on a few hats – some were a terrible fit and others stayed on for a while. 

And the whole time I was dancing through life I wrote things down. On lined paper. In journals. Using a large print typewriter Daddy gave me. Using a flair pen. In letters and cards. And eventually on that marvelous invention – a personal computer! I also found myself on stage occasionally and discovered that when Holy Spirit power poured through me I was in a personal “sweet spot” – sharing stories and words of encouragement.

What sage advice would I give that 10 year old Cindy Secrest? 
  • Keep writing letters to anyone you wish – always begin with praise and don’t hesitate to ask questions. What’s the worst that can happen? If they say no, move on.
  • Realize that some letters you write are best never mailed.
  • Always ask yourself the motivating factor for why you want to be or do something that has any amount of fame involved. You might need to recalculate...
  • If you aren’t afraid to be on stage or speak into a microphone, that doesn’t necessarily make you brave -- it’s probably just the way God wired you.
  • Be willing to adjust your goals and dreams as experience, mistakes, victories and critique help show you who you truly are.
  • When you look back over a lifetime, thank God for the unique way He created you and seek with all your heart to honor Him in all your pursuits.If that happens to include music, stories, and the occasional stage, then honey, give it all you got!

From this vantage point in life, I see that the early seeds of my desires were planted deep and nurtured through God’s process of strengthening both me and my faith. Today I rejoice in every opportunity to Share Stories, Write, Speak and mostly Encourage Others to Be Who God Created You to Be. 

Shattered Dreams? No, I prefer to call them Significant Dreams.


Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing BEST Award for Devotional)Ordinary Graces  (2018 Selah Finalist), Live These Words, and Refresh! Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing  "reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,"  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/ 


  1. Well said Ms. "Cindy" Indeed, we face many "NOs" in our lives, but like you, the key is learning to accept them as direction and not condemnation. Your article contains such wisdom ma'am. Thank you so much for sharing. God's blessings.

    1. Thank you for reading. God uses many things to shape us to His will and His way.

  2. Lucinda: In retrospect, I have learned that "No" or "You're wrong" can allow me to grow in ways that I couldn't if I had been permitted to have or be or think what I had sought, or thought.

  3. You are absolutely right! And aren't we grateful for those nos.... Thanks for reading.