Thursday, March 10, 2016

Why God Calls Us to Dream Big

I’m a dreamer - always have been. I’m a head-in-the-clouds kind of girl. When I was a kid, my dream was to be a country music star. I even started my college career off as a music major. But when I realized all I could do with that degree was teach, my plans changed.

A few semesters later, I switched my concentration to Public Relations...again, dreaming big. I pictured myself doing PR for some major fashion brand, planning runway shows and after-parties - being thrust into a world of glamour and sparkle. Unfortunately, I was one of the not-so-lucky college grads who went into the workforce right as the economy was crashing. And I learned pretty quickly that jobs in PR were few and far between. The glamorous positions I had dreamed of weren’t open to entry level candidates, and most other businesses were cutting back on (or completely eliminating) their PR departments.

But all wasn’t lost. I was fortunate enough to move within the same company I’d been working for as an office assistant to a different position as the PR/Marketing Manager. Basically, it was a small company that created a position for me. I was more than grateful and things went well for a while, but eventually I began to feel burnt out. Some things happened and I needed a change. So, I turned to Mary Kay - another big dream.

When I met my Mary Kay director, I knew it was something I had to try. Now, I’d never been a salesperson before and the thought of selling made me cringe, but Mary Kay seemed like the best opportunity to control my own future. I was excited about the possibilities presented to me.

But yet again, my dreams turned sour. I didn’t have the confidence or the motivation necessary to make something like that work. As much as I loved the product and what the company stood for, I simply couldn’t get my consulting business off the ground running. Maybe I gave up too soon. Or maybe I didn’t have enough passion to drive me to success because it simply wasn’t my calling. 

Naturally, I began looking for my next career move. And what I found was far beyond anything I could have imagined. Because by this point, I’d given up on my “dreams,” with only the need to help my new husband pay the bills moving me forward. Then I stumbled across a small business with big dreams of its own. I stumbled across people who really cared about their employees. I stumbled across a place to call home for the next four years.

I’ll never forget my time there or the people who so impacted my life. But still...something inside me was screaming, gasping for air. No matter how happy I was at my job or how much I loved being a part of something so amazing, I felt that I wasn’t fulfilling my life’s potential. Deep down, I knew God had something else planned for me.

Intensifying that nagging feeling was the desire to be home with my children. Our daughter was three at the time, and I had just found out I was expecting again. And no job - no matter how perfect - could stifle my yearning to be there for my kids.   

So I began to let myself dream again. I dreamed about what it would be like to work from home. I dreamed about spending my days drawing pictures with words.

See, sometime during the last few years, I had started writing a novel. It was just something I worked on when I had a bit of free time. I eventually self-published it - with very little success. I’d always dreamed (there’s that word again) of being a writer, but that seemed to be the one idea I silenced the most. I pushed it to the back of my mind because I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know if it could even be done.

But here I am, on the cusp of that same novel’s official release day. Tomorrow, my dream finally becomes reality. Finally. And it’s surreal.

Looking back on all my failed efforts, I can’t help but smile. It turns out, the one thing I’d avoided - the thing I’d been the most afraid of - was the one thing I was meant to do.

Why? Why did I go through so many trial-and-error dreams before finding my truth? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I don’t regret dreaming big. I’ll never regret it, not even a little bit. Not even those dreams that weren’t meant to be. Because I’ve realized something. God wants us to dream big.

I’ve read the statistics about authors - how much money they make (or don’t make, I should say), how unlikely it is to succeed in this industry. But I still dream. I still cling to the conviction that started all of this in the first place. Have I failed miserably in the past? More times than I can count. And I continue to fail at something - whether it’s motherhood, marriage, or career - every single day. But God doesn’t give up on me.

When I’m falling flat on my face, He’s there. When I’m struggling to remember the why behind all the mess I may be going through, He reminds me. I look into the sweet faces of my children or I see a story about the evil in this world, and I remember my purpose. I remember that if even one person gets inspired to make a change, turn to God, or encourage someone else, I’ve done my job. And it’s all worth it.

Still...why does God continue to let me fail while simultaneously encouraging me to dream? If my dreams might never see the light of day, why does He give them to me? It’s simple: for faith.

How can we possibly know the majesty and unbelievable power of God if we never experience a dream coming true? How can we feel His grace, love, and unfaltering patience if we never fail? How will we know what it means to really depend on God if He doesn’t let us try to first do things on our own?  

I believe with all my heart that God wants us to dream big - as big as we possibly can. Because He has the power to exceed even our greatest imaginings. He can do things that would blow your mind. Things we don’t dare dream about. But He can only do those things if we’re following His path for us.

There’s a Bible verse that a lot of Christians (myself formerly included) misinterpret. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I used to think that meant God would give me anything I wanted if I just believed in Him. Wrong.

What I’ve learned the verse actually means is this. If we delight in the Lord, really delight in Him - spend time in prayer and Bible study daily, soaking up His wisdom and peace - He’ll show us what He wants to do with our lives. And then He’ll place desires in our hearts. Those things, His plans, will become what we ourselves desire.

This has been a difficult lesson for me to learn. I used to believe if I wanted something that seemed noble or right, then it was part of God's plan. But that’s simply not true. While I do believe He gives each person unique talents and dreams, I don’t think you can consider anything you do ordained by God unless you’re close with Him. Even then, it takes a lot of time in prayer and a lot of being open to opportunities (and failures) to determine your God-given purpose.

Here’s a personal example from my own life. There have been many freelance writing opportunities presented to me lately, but not a single one has worked out. Each time I think something seems “perfect” and would provide more financial stability to my life, it gets snatched away as quickly as it was found. And each time, I get on my knees and plead with God to send me another opportunity. And He does. And then He takes it away. Why? Why, God?

I’m finally starting to see. Through a lot of frustration and even more prayer, the reason is becoming clear. That’s the only way God can get through to me. It’s the only way He can tell me to stop trying to make other things happen and to instead spend that time writing and promoting my fiction. Sometimes God speaks through our struggles. We just need to listen.

This is hard, to say the least. My doubts tell me I’ll never reach the level of success I need. They tell me I’m wasting time on things that aren’t paying me right now, things that might never pay me. But God tells me to have faith. He tells me to stop worrying, because He has always - and I mean always - taken care of my family and me.

And most of all, He tells me to keep on dreaming big.