Keep Dreaming

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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.

 

Abstract Dreams

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

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.

Write it Down: Mindset for Moms

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Write down those dreams. The house. The finances. The lifestyle

It seems so self-indulgent. Like making some kind of cosmic wish list and then expecting God to fulfill it. But at the same time, sometimes long term dreams and goals can weigh heavy on the mind. We are just at the beginning of a long road to becoming debt free. It can be very discouraging to realize that many of your goals and dreams are going to be deferred for years, perhaps nearly a decade. But when we write down our dreams and put them away for a while, we can take them off of our minds and put them into God’s hands.

I love what Jamie did in this chapter. There was a certain kind of house in a certain kind of location that they wanted, but moving was not urgent. She found the multi-lists and realtor websites overwhelming. She wrote it down, and probably would have forgotten about it until God fulfilled her every dream regarding their home, right down to the color. (Please read the chapter for more details, it really is a cool story).

This is not to say that we can just name what we want and God will give it to us, like an omnipotent waiter, but rather that when we give our dreams and desires to God he will answer us in ways we never could have expected. By writing it down, it allows us to look back and better see the goodness of God.

So I’m going to try to do this. Last year my husband and I already talked about what we were looking for in a dream house, mostly because we hate moving. It’s a hassle. We like to settle in and get comfortable. So we don’t want to move unless it will be to a place that has everything or nearly everything we want. This includes more living space, not just more bedrooms. We have no objection to fewer bedrooms if they are large enough for kids to share. After years of city living, we’re wearying of parking troubles and would love a place with off-street parking, whether driveway or garage (preferably both).

We want to be able to live as debt free as possible, though I may be willing to compromise on having a mortgage as long as it doesn’t eat up too much of our monthly cash flow. We also want to be able to have a more spontaneous lifestyle. This doesn’t mean that we won’t budget, but that we’ll be able to have room in the budget for spontaneity. Surprise the kids with a Friday night out at their favorite burger restaurant. Last minute family trip to the beach. Ability to visit family up north without saving all year for it.  Room to buy each other gifts and surprises on occasion. To be able to give more than we currently do to causes we support. We already have a line item in our budget for charitable giving, but we both feel strongly that should God bless us with an improvement to our financial situation, it would also be because there are others we are called to bless.

Your list of goals may be different from mine. There is so much more to mine than you see here. That’s OK. Yes, we still work toward our goals on a daily basis. But since it is such a slow journey, sometimes it’s easier to put the big ideas and dreams to paper and put them away for a while and wait to see how God will work in the future.

 

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Debt

My husband and I never carried much debt, or at least we thought so. We’ve always paid our credit cards on time and only made use of 0% financing offers when we actually had the money, and made self-imposed monthly payments. But slowly, student loan debt crept up on us. We saw investing in my husband’s education as the vehicle for improving our lives and potentially reaching our dreams. But, we didn’t fully count the cost. My husband now has two bachelor’s degrees, the second of which finally opened the door to the computer industry, which he had been trying to break into for years. Then he began to pursue a master’s degree. After three semester’s of very pricey tuition, he decided to take some indefinite time off and nearly 5 year’s worth of student loans came rushing back to haunt us. We had always planned that his proposed increased income after finishing his master’s degree would help to pay off the student loans. But right now there is no increased income. He hasn’t even had a cost of living increase at his current job. Not that I’m complaining. I recognize how lucky he is to even have a job when so many others don’t right now. But now all of our future plans on put on hold while we look at the impossible task of what to do about this debt. Just making minimum payments, assuming we could afford them, which we can’t, these student loans will eat up ridiculous amounts of interest over the course of 10 or 20 years in repayment. His education will end up costing us nearly twice as much. But where do we get the money? If I go back to work, that means paying for daycare for our daughter and any other future children. Assuming I could even find a job, after the investment required in daycare, disposable diapers and other working expenses, I don’t know if it would really be worth it. There are other potential sources of income, but those are all still far into the future, and far from guaranteed.  I find myself looking for solutions that will provide some immediate satisfaction. It feels like no amount of frugal living and cost cutting will help us get ahead of our bills. Our car needed a new fuel pump to the tune of $400 dollars.  Our emergency fund seems to get keeping hit time after time with no way to fill it back up again. So what is the solution? Do we invest in our own projects like our novels and my husband’s programming projects while keeping up with the minimum of our responsibilities? Or do we bite the bullet and get extra jobs that have some guaranteed return, albeit small ones? For right now, it seems that the first option is what we are moving towards. But the weight of our debt, though taken out with the best of intentions, is inhibiting our pursuit of our dreams for the future. Don’t underestimate the power of debts. They have the potential to hold you back for a long time.

My 31 Day Financial Challenge – Day 11: Dividing Up the Rest and Finishing the Time Budget

Trent says something in this post that I find interesting “ Paying off debts isn’t romantic at all …”  This is probably true for most people, but not for me. I dream about the day that each student loan will have the words Paid in Full after it. I can barely see my dreams or the road to get there without seeing the giant roadblock labeled Debt. With every dime I spend, it looms in the background. It feels insurmountable. I consider getting out of debt to be my primary goal. According to Trent, I should be devoting equal time and money toward both dreams and debt. One of my dreams is to be out of debt.

I know that the goals that will require the most time will be the work on my two books and my goal to increase my physical activity. But lately my brain is so wrapped up in looking for ways to solve our debt issues that I can seem to focus on the things that are supposed to matter most to me.

My 31 Day Financial Challenge – Day 7: Work for Your Dreams, Not Your Money

The philosophy of this step was a bit abstract for me. But I can see the benefit. Unfortunately, this wasn’t too much help to me, since I’m not the one working to directly bring in the income. But I certainly will keep this in mind if I go back to work part-time. Since any money I make will go directly toward paying down debt or building our emergency fund, I can use this method of focusing on particular hours and imagining the money earned those hours going directly toward our dreams. I wish I could get my husband to use this to get him through his most difficult hours at work, but since he works pretty much just to cover our living expenses, I can see why he doesn’t find it to be that helpful to him.

The current 40 hours a week that my husband works covers mostly just our living expenses. There are a few small luxuries such as $10 a month for dates for the two of us and $70 a year so that I can attend our local MOPS group. I wish he could devote 25% of his weekly hours to paying off debt and 15% to dreams. Through he has been putting time every week towards the computer games he has been designing, which may someday produce income. The only solution I can see is that more of my weekly hours need to be spent working at something that will bring in income. I do already work, but as any full-time stay-at-home mother knows, it can be frustrating not to see a paycheck for my efforts. I know what I do matters, but it is easier when you can quantify that it.