When You Pursue Your Dreams and Fail

BOY SUNFLOWER FIELD

We tend to pursue our dreams in secret, don’t we?

We tip-toe toward them in our fuzzy slippers and robes during the darkest hours, daring not to make a sound as if we don’t want to wake up the dream slayers — the fears and doubts and uncertainties that are deaf but know we’re coming anyway.

We whisper our dreams softly, don’t we?

It’s almost impossible to hear them ourselves and it’s easy to forget we ever uttered them at all. Instead of living them out loud, we tuck them into our books at night and they sit on our nightstand collecting dust until it’s time to read again, then fall asleep again, then dream again.

Why are we so quiet about having dreams, or speaking dreams or pursuing dreams? Can I share something with you?

I’m tired of whispering my dreams.

Not many people know this, but in the past nine months I’ve had an amazing publisher interested in my book — a book that has been a dream of mine for six years. It passed Acquisitions Committee and then went to Publications Board twice. After the second time, they finally settled on a no.

I’ve been sitting with that no for a couple of weeks now, and honestly I’m okay with the answer. But what I’m not okay with is how I’ve handled the process of this dream.

Because I never told more than a handful of people what was happening during the entire nine months. Somewhere along the way in my life, I’ve believed that in order to have a dream you have to keep it quiet until it comes to pass. Like there’s some superstitious jinx on sharing it that will prevent it from becoming a reality.

But you know what the consequence is for pursuing dreams so fearfully and quietly? We lose dreamers. (tweet) We stop teaching others that regardless of the outcome, it’s healthy to dream. And most importantly, we lose the opportunity to show others how to trust Jesus, even when we pursue our dreams and “fail.”

From the world’s point of view, I have failed in reaching my dream. By not getting a book deal, I can easily become convinced that dream has died and that I need to pursue a more “realistic” dream.

But can I tell you something?

I think I actually succeeded. Because every other time in my life when I’ve been faced with rejection, I’ve allowed it to break me. I’ve taken it personally and let it dictate who I am and what I’m worth. And you know what? This was the first time in my life I didn’t do that.

Can I tell you something else?

Over the past nine months, I wasn’t sure if I wanted God’s will for my life more than I wanted this book. I quite honestly had a very, very hard time separating the two, and it became my constant prayer that the book wasn’t becoming an idol. I wasn’t sure where my heart truly stood on the matter.

And you know what else?

While I’m still saddened and disappointed by this loss, my peace and trust in my Lord has not wavered. Even for a second. I know and trust — even when I cannot see — that He has a plan for me and my life. And I know now, by that nonsensical yet supernatural peace, that I do want His will more than a book.

And my most favorite thing of all?

Through this my daughter has gotten to see that we don’t always succeed in everything we set out to do. That sometimes we can reach out and touch our dreams for a split second, but they can still slip out of our fingers in an instant — but that doesn’t stop our dreaming. It just makes us press in and work harder and believe God more. I am proud that she got to see me cry and mourn, but that I can put my hope in Jesus — the Dream Maker — and not just the dream itself.

Because “we are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” (Romans 8:28, The Voice, emphasis mine).

So in the end, I think I won.

Why would I stay silent about that kind of success?

I think from now on I’m going to live my dreams out loud instead of tip-toeing toward them in my fuzzy slippers and robe. Not because I’m seeking attention or accolades for myself, but because I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spur another on in victory. And maybe if we all saw each other courageously pursuing dreams — regardless of the outcome — we’d find the courage to pursue more of ours, too.

So here’s to beating the drum and marching loudly in the dream parade — eyes on the Conductor as He orchestrates everything to work toward beautiful and good things.

Note: This is not a post where I’m searching for affirmation or encouragement or assurances that my book will get published some day. Just wanted to encourage you, my friends, to look toward the sun and find your dreams and pursue them loudly.

What about you? Do you have any dreams you want to live out loud? Please share — let’s encourage each other to wildly dream and love the Dream Giver.

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Tethered and Soaring

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I live in a world of contrasts.

My mind is grounded and my spirit soars. My feet are in shoes of peace and my sword swings high. I feel lost and yet I’m found. I’m disappointed and at peace.

This beautiful dichotomy of high and low, bound and free, die and live, humble and exalt, believe and see, lonely and never alone — it’s a holy contrast that seems inconsistent yet makes perfect sense.

Do you see? Can you hear?

This Jesus-filled life explodes with beautiful contrasts and seeming contradictions…

run and walk

be and do

stop and go

yes and no

Psalms and Proverbs

virgin and mother

mortal and immortal

stillness and action

knowledge and faith

…and it always will.

What contrasts are you experiencing right now?

single and mama?

married and lonely?

yearning and quitting?

living and dying?

striving and failing?

hurting and healing?

disappointed and peaceful?

Can I tell you a secret?

Jesus lives in the AND. 

He’s the bridge from one side to the other. He’s how this contradictory life stays balanced. Our lives must be filled with contrasts because that is the exact essence of who Jesus is.

Jewish and Christian

human and divine

baby and King

convicting and graceful

dead and alive

heaven and hell

friend and brother

lion and lamb

old testament and new testament

Do you see? Can you hear?

Jesus is the AND.

The AND is not a place where a battle is to be fought, but is instead the place to rest — the place where glory awaits.

single JESUS mother

married JESUS lonely

striving JESUS failing

yearning JESUS quitting

living JESUS dying

stillness JESUS action

knowledge JESUS faith

Do you see? Can you hear?

He’s in the middle of all of it. Look for Him.

virgin JESUS mother

stop JESUS go

yes JESUS no

tethered JESUS soaring

be JESUS do

mortal JESUS immortal

Jesus is the AND.

And when you rest there — in the AND, the place where your faith is stretched — it all make sense in a wise and nonsensical way.

stretch JESUS rest

strive JESUS cease

pray JESUS listen

hurting JESUS healing

disappointment JESUS peace

When you rest there, you can let go and hang on. Both. At the same time.

Because He brings the perfect balance to that very situation.

Jesus is the harmony and the rhythm that makes this life one beautiful song. (tweet)

Do you see? Can you hear?

It’s one of the most difficult things to do…find rest in the AND. But when you’re striving and worn out and frustrated and feel like collapsing from the sheer exhaustion — that’s when it’s most necessary to stop everything and live in the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt 11:28, MSG).

beauty and ashes

joy and mourning

freedom and captivity

JESUS.

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Mothering

We rejoice at the positive pregnancy test and immediately plan the colors of the nursery. If it’s a girl, it’ll be Tiffany Blue and if it’s a boy, grays and navy. And when the ultrasound time comes and we find out the gender we immediately pick names. In the span of 20 minutes we’ve considered and tossed out close to 50 name options ranging from family to traditional to unique to modern spellings of traditional names.

As the pregnancy grows we plan our clothes and the baby’s clothes. We plan the diaper bag and the wipes holder and plan the car seat and the window shade and the high chair. We plan our birthing process and what we’ll wear in the hospital and what the baby will wear home.

When our child is born, we plan the feeding schedule and the sleeping schedule and the pooping schedule and the playing schedule. We plan visits with family and friends to show off our bundle. We take time to pack the bag and have extra clothes and extra diapers and extra wipes and extra everything in case we’re stranded for a week solid.

As toddlerhood begins we figure out where they’ll go to Mother’s Morning Out and for how many hours a day. Then we finalize a preschool and Halloween costumes and Christmas outfits and Easter baskets and decide if we’ll even celebrate Halloween or Santa or the Easter Bunny at all.

Careful thought about every single aspect of our child’s life, planned out from the moment we peed on a stick.

But then, if you’re like me, you wake up one day and your daughter is almost nine and you realize you’ve been very happenstance about this whole mothering thing, regardless of all your planning.

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And I suddenly there’s a sense of urgency because if I’m not intentional now then I’ve lost the most formative years before she’s a full-fledged teen. (tweet)

And all the planning for nursing and outfits and preschool was nothing compared to the planning I need to do now.

So now — today — I begin. With intention. With determination.

First, I hit the ground with my face to the floor and let my pained heart bleed out to the One who gave her to me. I thank Him for the gift of raising a daughter, even when I was scared to death about raising a girl in a world with Facebook and Twitter at minimum. I ask Him to fill me with wisdom and discernment and confidence and boldness that I might say no when necessary, bestow grace when it’s undeserved and hold firm when I want to waver.

Second, I cover her with Truth. I pray the word over her, that her heart would be guarded from lies that the world wants her to believe. I pray that no weapon formed against her would prosper and that He would hide her under His mighty wing. I pray that she might always find refuge in Him alone. First. Always. I pray that her daddy would continue to dote over her and fawn over her, displaying the Father’s love for her here on earth, just as he always has.

Third, I stock up my arsenal. I gather books and resources galore that will help me navigate in these choppy waters of tweendom. Resources from Secret Keeper Girl and books like Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl and Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. I read and highlight and cry and pray as my eyes are opened to the importance of this time in her life. I call on friends who have walked this path and know what’s ahead of me. I ask them for prayer when I’ve had to make tough decisions that leave me feeling like That Mom. I soak up wisdom from these friends and pour out thanksgiving to them and God for their covering.

Lastly, I let go. After all the tears and prayers and books and talks, I have to open the cage and let her fly. I have to trust her to make tough decisions. I resist the urge to rescue when her heart is hurt by a friendship. I have to comfort and love and release and watch in so many ways and it makes my heart ache, but that’s what I’m called to do. I have to trust Jesus in her. I have to trust God. I have to. For after all, she was His first. He’s just entrusting her to me for a time.

When I was six months pregnant and had that glow and eagerly anticipated what Jaana would look like and how she’d grow up, I didn’t imagine she’d be as amazing a child as she is right now. I also couldn’t have imagined the depths to which I would feel for her.

I knew I’d love her fiercely, but I didn’t realize how quickly I’d be willing to punch out another child for hurting her feelings. Or how often I’d want to isolate her in a bubble so she wouldn’t be subject to any pain or difficulty or change. Or how her pain would literally make my heart stop.

I didn’t know it would be like that.

I’ve had to keep myself from crying more times than I can count as she tells me about changing friendships, hurt feelings and how life just doesn’t seem fair.

For all the planning I did as a pregnant woman, I have felt so underprepared to mother, feeling failure at every turn and fear of permanent scarring.

But there are also moments when I’m drowning in the words I can’t find to comfort or guide her, and suddenly as my mouth opens God fills it. He speaks the words that will bring a healing balm to her tiny heart. He speaks the grace that erases doubt and confusion as she nods her head in understanding.

Those are the holy moments. The moments when I truly realize He has equipped me for this job…even if the equipping happens in real-time in a minute-by-minute basis, and not in a stockpile. (tweet)

So I begin my journey of intention starting today, confident in the knowledge that God is equipping me to mother this beautiful girl as I go. I make my plans but keep a loose hold on them to allow for God’s divine guidance and direction along the way.

“The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord shows him what to do.” (Proverbs 16:9, New Life Version)

Bullying

BULLY

Discouragement is a bully.

It comes at you on the playground when you’re running and laughing and enjoying life and delivers a sucker punch that brings you to a heap on the ground gasping for breath and crying silently.

Discouragement is a bully.

It interrupts the moments of contentedness and peace and just when you’re feeling on top of things and like the vision is actually a possibility, it throws a ball directly at your head and it knocks you to the ground and impairs your vision.

Discouragement is a bully.

It yells obscenities at you, tells you you’re ugly and not good enough and confirms your deepest fears. It preys on those fears and taunts you with them and convinces you it’s best just to quit — quit showing up , quit working hard, quit trying.

Discouragement is a bully, and I just realized it today.

When I was a child and in a heap of tears over bullying taunts and jabs, my parents would gather me up and pray for me. And then they would encourage me to pray too. Not just for myself, but for the bully. Not that the bully would receive vengeance, but to pray for love. For peace. That the bully’s heart would change.

All the things I didn’t want to pray, they told me to focus on.

Discouragement is a bully, but the hero is prayer. (<= tweet that)

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The bully showed up unexpectedly yesterday, and picked on me nonstop. Suddenly, everything I saw and read and heard confirmed the bully’s lies. I locked myself in the bathroom more than twice to silently cry and was ready to give it all up — the dreams, the visions, the joy, all of it. The ball the bully threw knocked me out cold and I just couldn’t see anymore.

I believed his lies and I am ticked off today that I fell for it.

Because in my heart of hearts, here is what I know:

“He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” (Matthew 10:30-31, The Message)

When the bully shows up and intimidates me, God gathers me up on his lap and prays that I would realize how the bully’s words mean nothing. He reassures me how much I’m truly worth and reminds me to use my shield of faith to deflect the piercing, untrue words.

“But he [God] didn’t let anyone push them around, he stood up for them against bully-kings: “Don’t you dare touch my anointed ones, don’t lay a hand on my prophets.’” (I Chronicles 16:20-22, The Message)

And when the bully shows up and intimidates me, God deals with it Himself so I don’t have to. When I’m a crushed heap under the weight of words that feel so real, He jumps in and stands up for me and takes the bully out.

And He reminds me to pray for peace. For love. For a heart change. Not for this bully, because he’s unchangeable to the core. But that I would pray it for myself…that I would accept the peace and love God has to give. And for my heart to change so I will stop believing each time discouragement shows up on my playground.

Yes, discouragement is a ruthless beast, bullying its way into every corner of my life that means anything. But my hero is prayer and the One to whom I pray.

My Daddy will always stick up for me.

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Timing

HANDS FRAMED-DIFFUSED

Dear God,

I’m trying. I’m focusing on what you’ve given me to do today and I’m pushing IT away to the darkest and dankest recesses of my limited brain but it creeps to the forefront even when I least expect it. It’s just so hard.

So hard.

Because I see her over there and I see her on the other side and what about that one? They all are too. And I know what you’ve called me to because you’ve told me and you’ve confirmed it through other people and I’ve even gotten the flashing neon sign I waited six years for…directly from those heavens to these eyes that are too limited to really see.

“If I want this one to wait until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

I know! I know, I know, I know. But just as things were gaining momentum and heading somewhere, a brick wall mysteriously appeared that I still can’t see it and everything just. stopped. You haven’t said no but you haven’t said yes and it’s a purgatory of waiting where they’re playing limbo but I’m too tall and not flexible enough to bend under the bar.

And I don’t like party games, you know that.

Sometimes you’re just not about closure and I’m just asking for a no or give me a yes. But you are the best at locking your holy lips and throwing away the key. And I equal parts love you for it and want to throw something at you for it.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.”

So how do I turn off my brain so that I just finally stop thinking about IT?  When there’s no closure and no answers and movement on IT just stops dead in its tracks and I can’t make it move — no matter how hard I try. What is the process for being okay with that?

I begin to put the focus on myself — did I pray enough? Was I too lazy? Because I know you always works in conjunction with our partnership, did I do enough on my end? What else…what else…what else can I do?

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You’re right (of course, because you always are). It’s just like all those other times you were so quiet and didn’t answer and then in your time you brought forth the answer in a way so much better and beyond what I would have expected.

Like the time that one apartment didn’t come through and I was so disappointed and yes I trusted you would provide something better but it didn’t take away the disappointment. And then you led me to The Better Place and that sweet little nest became our sanctuary.

You and me alone together taking on the world. I miss that from time to time…the luxury of having all the uninterrupted time together we wanted. That gift was the foundation of everything for me. You knew that would happen, didn’t you?

And when I was desperate to work in ministry and talked to everyone I could and met with anyone that would stop their day to talk with this 20-something girl who sought answers they couldn’t provide. Never in a million years thought you’d yoke me up with a pastor. Never ever ever.

“Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak.”

And when all my prayers focused around that guy and I was convinced he was the one and I remember the day that broke. I just woke up and it was over and I felt so free. I had been so consumed and placed all my value and hope in a flawed creature and when I finally could see I knew you had plans for me beyond what my limited vision would allow.

And the day Greg came along changed everything. I still sit in awe that you knew so what not just what I wanted but what I needed.

BUT what I needed.

BUT.

It’s always the BUT. You speak your word and it will never return void, not ever. And we hear you speak your words but we naturally attach it to IT when it has nothing to do with IT at all. Because it will do what you wanted and accomplish what you determine.

David said, “From the ends of the earth, I call to you when I begin to lose heart. Lead me to the rock that is high above me.”

I’m losing heart and I know you hear me because you always do. Help me see. Like all those times before when you changed my sight and changed my heart, lead me to the rock that is higher than I am.

I’m tired of being here. I’d rather be there — seeing what you want me to see than anywhere at all. Even more than having IT. (<= tweet that)

“From the beginning I declare how things will end; from times long past, I tell what is yet to be, saying: ‘My intentions will come to pass. I will make things happen as I determine they should.'” (Isaiah 46:10)

“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Amen.

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