My husband and I were having a conversation the other night about dreams. Because we’ve just come through a season of survival mode. Looking back I almost can’t believe how long it lasted. I began packing up my house last summer, we made an offer on a new house in October and didn’t get a signed lease for our old house (now the rental property) until early December. Now we are starting into April and while my house is becoming livable, it is also still full of boxes. I’m still struggling with getting back to a routine and making sure all the necessities are covered.
While the whole moving process was a big part of our future dreams, during that time many other things had to be pushed to the side. We are both creative people and our creative activities have always been a big part of our personal self care. But during this survival mode season, much of that has had to take a back seat. Suddenly, the long term dreams and aspirations surrounding those creative endeavors seem like lost and forgotten dreams.
I was lamenting the fact that I seem to have given up on my dreams. (And that my wonderful and creative husband seems to have given up on his.) Then it occurred to me that there is more than one kind of dream.
These are the things that sound nice, but may or may not ever happen. Somewhat along the lines of wishes, but I would call them more than that because usually we have invested a great deal of thought, and sometimes even preliminary plans into these dreams. Sometimes because they are entirely outside of our control (like winning the lottery), or simply highly unlikely or because they will require a complete lifestyle chance that we aren’t prepared for. My husband and I have a dream of sorts to travel the country with our kids and home school on the road. While it’s a fun idea, it doesn’t matter enough to us to do the work it would take the make it happen right now. That doesn’t mean never, but until we are prepared to take this dream to the next step, it will remain where it is.
Concrete dreams are the kind that motivate goals. They may be likely or unlikely, but they meant enough that we are making measurable steps towards them. One of our dreams is to be debt free (or virtually debt free, I’ve decided to be Ok with a mortgage of some kind). So that means I have to do the math to figure out how to pay down our student loans faster than the current rate. Even if the steps feel small, they still have measurable success; even if it’s just $20 or $30 a month.
If my goal is to publish a book, reading books on writing, blocking out time to write and reading books in my proposed genre are helpful concrete tasks towards achieving that goal. Yes, given the number of people who claim to want to be published authors and the odds of being successful enough as an author to support myself and my family may not be in my favor. But I feel that even if I fail at that aspect of the dream, but in the process I produce work that I am proud of, I won’t really have failed.
I always struggle finding a balance between not dreaming at all (because it feels like it will never happen) and being Ok with dreams that I know are unlikely to happen. If something is really important to me, I need to be willing to make the lifestyle and financial sacrifices to make it happen.
Look Back and Remember
I also need to be willing to look back at my life and see where the dreams are coming true. My life may not be glamorous, but much of it is exactly what I always said I wanted. My desires and dreams may have changed a bit, that’s OK. But it’s still important for me to look objectively at my life and acknowledge with gratitude the dreams that have come to fruition. I have three beautiful children. We have been able to move out of our attached home into something a little bit larger. I am able to stay home with my children and home school them. These are all part of the dream I had when my husband and I were first married and I was working jobs just to pay the bills. Most of the paid work in my life hasn’t provide me with much fulfillment, but it was a means to an end.
Reassess and Categorize Accordingly
Sometimes we really do give up on a dream, but that doesn’t always have to be negative. Regularly reevaluating how we spend our time and money is a wonderful tool towards this end. If I believe that my dream is to run a marathon, but I can’t even bring myself to walk a mile, let alone take up running, I need to reconsider whether this is really a concrete dream or be willing to chance my behavior. Realizing that something we’ve been working toward is no longer what we want can be freeing. I can stop feeling guilty about what I’m not accomplishing and funnel my time, energy and money into something that I am really passionate about.
Enjoy the Journey
We also need to be able to enjoy the process. Life will never been perfect. It’s easy to think that when we have the house, the spouse, the kids, the dream job, the bank account life will be perfect and we’ll be able to relax. That once the kids are older, more independent, out of the house or we retire that suddenly we’ll be able to do all the things we’ve dreamed about. But I would counter that if something is a deeply held desire (i.e. concrete dream rather than abstract one) we will be working towards it now, at least in some capacity, rather than waiting for tomorrow.
Waiting Is OK
I think it is also OK to deliberately defer dreams. This doesn’t mean giving up on the, but rather making an intentional choice to pursue something at a later time. This is a hard one for me, because part of me is filled with the deep fear that some how I will miss out on the things I was meant to do. I have dreams regarding writing and speaking that are simply not possible right now. Why? Because other dreams have taken priority. The one’s involving a family, homeschooling and ministry that I am currently involved in. Because I am only one person, an I cannot do everything. (I am going to say that one more time, mostly because I need to hear it, but maybe you do to).
I CAN NOT DO EVERYTHING!
No one can. Despite what it meant appear on social media, none of us has it all together. We all must decide which dreams to pursue, which to defer and which to let go of. While there maybe be a sense of sadness or resignation in the process, it shouldn’t be a deep abiding grief. This is where may faith will show, because I firmly believe that if we seek God constantly and consistently in the process, he will be faithful to guide us. It is much easier to defer or even let go of a dream when we believe that God is faithful to guide and mold the desires of hearts into the best possible direction for us.
Ask yourself these important questions:
What dreams in my life are abstract?
Which dreams in my life are concrete?
Are these dreams in the correct position in my life? Do some abstract dreams need to become concrete through deliberate goal setting and intentional investment or do some need to be deferred or released as I pursue something else during this season?
Always keep dreaming, all kinds in all ways. Let that inspire and sustain you through the difficulties of today without allowing you to miss the beauty of the present.