Sunday, March 8, 2009

The New Dreamer

I've often wondered when I stopped dreaming. Not the kind that occur at night, which I have several times a week. But the kind where I envision my life somehow differently than it is now and take steps in that direction.

As an elementary school child, the sureness of numbers and equations spoke to me, as did routines. I couldn't find direct answers in literature or history, and creating things from scratch in art class, without so much as an example to go by, bewildered me. So I stuck with things with rules and a right answer that was determinable from the information I was given. Those things gave me comfort in a home life that was somewhat chaotic due to a father who battled mental illness.

Then came eighth grade. And for whatever reason, my creativity ignited. I spent hours on the weekend decorating the attendance slips for my teachers to use. I turned simple written assignments in my American history class into full-fledged projects, complete with the answers written in calligraphy on a scroll or a colonial newspaper.

But as quickly as the creative juices started flowing, they dried up. Maybe it was the increased extracurricular activities I participated in or simply the fact that I started my freshman year of high school. For whatever reason, I reverted back to straightforward school work. Yet I had a goal in mind. A goal to graduate first in my class. A goal that I pursued relentlessly, allowing myself little fun for four years until I was able to walk across the stage at graduation and give the farewell address as Valedictorian.

I moved on to college and set more academic goals. More sacrifices of fun, but another goal met. Conquered. Achieved.

Repeat the same process for grad school.

And then something happened. I realized how empty my achievements were. How they failed to define me. And how unpredictable life could be.

My body started not to cooperate.

Things I wanted to succeed at failed.

Little by little, I started to withdraw. To "numb out." I started not even asking God for things I wanted, probably for fear of disappointment after waiting and waiting for some of my prayers to not be answered with a "yes."

And now I look back and can't pinpoint when I stopped goal setting and dreaming.

But the desire to dream has been reawakened with these words from Beth Moore, "You may be one big decision away from breaking the old storyline and starting a brand new chapter of the narrative [of your life]." She also said, "We can protect ourselves right out of our calling."

That's where I've been hanging out. In the zone of self-protection. The one that convinces me to not take risks and to avoid disappointments.

But the story in Esther urges me to get out of that zone and be brave. To conquer my fears. To trust.

Yep, there's that sneaky little word again. It's only March, and it's making itself at home in my daily thoughts. As I begin to find and flex my dreaming muscle, I am sure there's going to be a direct connection to my trust muscle. I think I see some workouts are in the near future. So stay tuned for progress updates. . . .


Momma Bean said...

I remember your goal statement posted boldly on your wall in college. Thank you for the inspirational words.

Anonymous said...

Good advice.

There comes a point where you realize that you're not getting any younger, that your situation is not how you planned it, and that things just seem to be either stagnant, or worse, in a downward spiral. A bad marriage, no novel written, no marathon run, no super career accomplishments, no millionaire status, etc. Your whole life can be measured by what you haven't accomplished, if you're not careful.

I think you're a lot like me: the goals were everything for awhile, to the exclusion of everything else, including a personal life or family. When the goals were either achived or not realized, it creates an empty feeling. And that void is where the Devil can just creep into and work all kinds of devastation. I made a lot of bad decisions at the point of desperation, looking for something to fill those holes that I had created.

I'd agree that goals are a great thing. But don't let them become the entire benchmark by which you measure your success in life. You have a greater purpose than what you know of, or can articulate through a list of accomplishments or goals unrealized.

Alyssa said...

MB - So fun that you remembered that!

A - Great point! The world conditions us to measure success, but what is the measure of a great spouse, parent, sibling, friend? How many people's lives have we touched for Christ? You are correct that our purpose cannot always be gauged by measurable accomplishments.

TJ Wilson said...

A - this is fantastic. What an encouragement. I'd say you've been testing those "trust" wings for a couple of years now, have seen it a handful of ways. Inspiring!

kasogayle said...

Ok, A - I'm starting the Esther bible study next I really can't wait!

Krista said...

Ask for the moon........