Following Your Dreams

Dreams are funny things. My 15 year old daughter recently explained to me that she had read an article about dreams (no doubt from an extremely reliable source she found while scrolling through Pinterest) and that dreams are made up of things we are scared of or things that we really want. Whether it’s based on scientific fact or not, it resonated with me.

But what about other kinds of dreams? The kinds of dreams that we can’t see clearly just yet, or even put into words? Dreams that grip your heart during your waking hours, but you can’t quite let yourself speak them into existence. (At least not to anyone you actually know in real life). Have you ever had a dream to do something that terrified you, but at the same time you can’t imagine not doing it?

This little corner of the internet has been something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. I’ve lived enough (and experienced regret enough) to know that when a dream fills the hidden spaces of your heart, putting it aside for “another time” won’t necessarily make it fade away. It will continue to grow until you can no longer ignore it’s presence inside of you.

I recently came across this quote and it took my breath away.

The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, to keep with the problem, or to be determined to carry out their dream.” – Les Brown

Well, when you put it like that…

Stepping Out in Faith

So here we are. The dream is no longer hidden, and the first step has officially been taken. As I began to type out this blog post, I took note of the not-so-subtle messages I was receiving from my very opinionated nervous system.  My pulse was racing, those red splotches started to creep up my neck, and actual sweat began beading up under my arms. There is just something so vulnerable about exposing your heart in the form of words. But as I typed, just the process of writing words, allowing my fingers to quickly move across the keyboard while my thoughts spilled out onto the page, instantly began filling my soul!

And then.

Then, all the expected thoughts and feelings began showing up, right on cue.

Why are you even doing this?

Don’t you have enough on your plate as it is? Why try something new?

No one will actually read this. (Well, maybe your mom).

I dutifully began to play happy hostess, yet again, to the self-doubt that frequently shows up, uninvited, inside my head. However, this time, God also showed up. And He replaced that self-doubt with another thought. A different thought. A brand new thought.

Maybe this isn’t about me.

I let this simmer for a while before finally acknowledging the truth. I’ve been too scared to start writing because of so many things that I’ve been afraid of. However, the desires of our hearts are gifted to us, not to keep hidden, but to be used as an opportunity to serve.

So…I write.

I write because others have been brave enough to write – and what they wrote shaped the experiences of my childhood.

Early Inspiration

As a kid, I adored reading. I spent lazy Saturdays reading The Babysitter’s Club novels and couldn’t wait for the next books in the series to be published! I checked the bookstore often to see if there were any new releases. (This was long before the internet, and the concepts of pre-ordering and free two-day shipping was nothing short of science fiction.)

Growing up, I also loved writing. In fifth grade I wrote a fairy tale and spent an embarrassing amount of time designing the book cover. My best friend and I wrote stories on her word processor when I came over to her house (of course this was done in between the hours we spent reading Bop Magazine and discussing New Kids on the Block trivia).

Great stories have always had such an impact on me. In fact, one of my first “Bucket List” items (before I even knew what a “Bucket List” was) was to meet Beverly Cleary. She captivated me with her entertaining tales, and I was instantly absorbed into the plot within minutes of reading the first pages. Her writing made me realize that people can feel so many different emotions when simple words are stitched together on a page in just the right way. It was a fascinating thought. I wanted to do exactly what she did.

One afternoon, halfway through my 4th grade year, our librarian gleefully announced that we would have a very special visitor during our next library time. I instantly sat up straight, intrigued by this new mystery presented to us. I spent the next week hoping with all my might that it would be Beverly Cleary. I couldn’t imagine who else would garner such enthusiasm from a school librarian, so I just knew it was her. I thought about bringing my copy of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (the best of the Ramona series – obviously) but I didn’t want to seem too presumptuous. I mean, she would have a line of kids winding out the door, so she probably wouldn’t have time to sign it.

As it turns out, I didn’t need my book after all. When we went to our next library time, our very special guest was just our regular principal in his regular suit reading a regular book to the class. It was one of the first major life disappointments I can remember.

Inspired by so many real life authors, I continued to write. I wrote mostly diary entries and journals as an outlet while I fumbled my way through adolescence. But one year in high school English class, I wrote a paper that I could not be more proud of. I was beaming as I confidently stood from my desk and walked it over to the “turn in tray”. It was chalk full of metaphors and figurative language. My teacher was going to be so impressed. I wondered if she might even call my mom to share the news that I was clearly a literary genius.

In a shocking turn of events, there was no phone call home. I got my paper back and it was covered in red marks, corrections at every turn. I was my own personal version of Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB Gun essay. I couldn’t believe she didn’t see it as the masterpiece I imagined it was.

Unfortunately that one experience planted seeds of doubt, and I no longer allowed myself to enjoy writing. I wrote only as a means to an end. Writing in college was easy for me, but I found no enjoyment in pounding out those essays. It was simply the path to getting the grade and that was the end goal. I graduated, married, went to work, had kids, and life moved on in a responsible, comfortable, predictable fashion.

It’s About to Get Real

It wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that God began to nudge me, as He does, to the point where I was uncomfortable. While things were moving right along, my daily life predictable, writing suddenly began to become something I craved again. Quiet at first, the desire quickly became unrelenting and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

God speaks to us in lots of ways. He knows us intimately and sees straight into our very soul. So we shouldn’t be surprised when He uses our modern-day vices like Instagram to get a message across. I stumbled upon Emily P. Freeman’s Instagram page and she was talking about her latest book, The Next Right Thing at just the time I was longing for someone to just tell me what to do. That book gave me the courage to take the next step.

The next step is the one you’re actually reading right now. I created a website and a blog, and God is leading the rest of the way.

I ran across this quote that perfectly sums up my dream as it exists in this very moment:

“The bottom line is that if you want to write, you get to, but you probably won’t be able to get very far if you don’t start trying to get over your perfectionism.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Even though it’s terrifying. Even though the outcome is unclear. Even though I desperately want things to be perfect. I know that all I can do is what God is asking of me in the moment. It’s all any of us can do.

Your dream may be something you recently awoke to that you can’t stop thinking about. Maybe it’s something that’s been inside of you ever since you were walking around in pleated acid wash jeans with permed bangs (or maybe that’s just me). If you have a dream inside of you, share it with God. (Spoiler alert, He already knows! But tell Him anyway). No matter what it is. Nothing is too big or too scary or too crazy for our God. He is faithful to provide when we find ourselves standing at the intersection of our dreams and an opportunity. Let Him guide your next steps!

What’s your dream? Is there something stirring in your heart that feels a little scary or a little crazy? I encourage you to read Emily’s book The Next Right Thing and start your own journey. One baby step at a time.

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