Caught Up in Forever

I could pass entire days dreaming. I mean, I’m a novelist. It’s what I do. I dream up worlds and stories and characters. But sometimes… Sometimes those dreams get a little out of control. Sometimes I forget to draw the line between fantasy and reality. Sometimes I really do spend entire days dreaming, and I don’t feel that my life has benefited from it.

Ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing”? Dreams can be like that. While they are an absolute vital part of our existence, you can get so wrapped up in them that they cease to be a good thing.

Because it’s hard to dream and do at the same time. If all you’re doing is envisioning the future, but not taking the steps necessary to get there, you have a problem. A big problem. You’re stuck in a rut. Your dreams are stale. And I wonder…

I wonder what you’re doing about Right Now.

Because, once upon a time, I used to wake up in the morning and tell myself to live the journey. I’d whisper the words of a Steven-James-penned poem to myself as I went throughout my day. Live the Journey. Live. Because I used to believe in embracing the moments and grasping the now that slipped so quickly through my fingertips. But then I forgot. I got so caught up in the future that I forgot to leave room for the now.

I tell myself over and over again to slow down and let life catch up, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I stop to breathe and look around me and revel in the beauty of my life here and now. But sometimes I’m too caught up in forever to care about what happens day to day.

And I feel that life is one, endless cycle of me getting it right only to find that I’ve gotten it wrong. And my journals are full of scribbled pleas to remember what is truly important. That I’m going to miss forever if I don’t learn to embrace the now.

Because I realize there is so much I don’t know about forever. It’s unpredictable. Unable to be grasped and labeled and categorized and tucked safely away into a box where I can control it. But right now… Right now is within my reach, and maybe it won’t stay forever. Maybe it will flicker like a firefly–here for a season, gone the next. Maybe it will lift itself up on butterfly wings and float away on the breeze. But maybe… Maybe before it goes, it will first dance its way into my heart, leaving footprints on my memory of a life well lived.

Because, yes, I don’t know much of anything about forever, but I know what’s in front of me right now. And I know I need to slow down and simply breathe in right now. And I know it’s my duty–my God-given duty–to live right now.

So here’s to letting go of forever.

caught up in forever

Know What You Want

She’s nine years old and already boy-crazy, staring after the director’s son as he walks out the door.

“Girl,” I say, shaking my head, “you concern me.”

Her head whips around, blonde hair slapping into her face as she plants her hands on her hips and says, “Girl, you  concern me. You’ve never even had a boyfriend!”

Touche, my young friend. Touche.

Because there’s really no way for me to come back from that, is there? No way to explain to anyone—let alone a nine-year-old—that I chose this. The singleness thing. How I wear the “never been dated” label like a crown. Tall and proud. No regrets.

It’s a fact that knocks the socks off of every nine-year-old girl I meet. (Sometimes I think that alone would make it all worthwhile, but I’ve got an ornery streak like that.)

I’m not ashamed of my relationship status; I just find it hard to explain at times. Because most people don’t think that being twenty-two years single is a thing to be proud of. In fact, I’d venture to say that most people, like a certain nine-year-old I know, would say that this actually concerns them to some extent.

Well, I’m sorry that you’re concerned, but I’m happy as I am, thank you very much. So, how have I managed all these years? I’m so glad you asked.

In my book, I talk a little about how I quickly decided that I didn’t want to spend my teen years in the business of broken hearts. I didn’t want to make the mistake of getting completely lost in a guy like some of my friends had done. But I’m realizing more and more every day that what ultimately kept me single was not what I didn’t  want, but what I did  want.

If you truly want to be happy and single, you’ve got to know what you want. (And what you want has got to be more than a husband and children and a cute little house with a white picket fence, if you know what I mean.)

This may sound ridiculous, but the real reason I avoided the dating world in high school is because I knew I was bound for the mission’s field. I wanted that little office nestled in the mountains of Virginia where people came together to further the Gospel throughout the world, and I knew that office was a long way from Ohio. And I knew my heart was never very good at holding things lightly. And I knew if I got too attached, I’d never pack up and go.

So I made a choice. And I kept making choices that led me to this place here and now. Because when it comes time to choose between a calling and a possibility, I’ll take the calling every time.

Because I know what I want. I know where God is leading me. And I know how easy it is to forget all that when my heart starts skipping three steps ahead.

I still believe there is someone out there who will come along and fulfill my dreams of marriage and family and cute little houses void of white picket fences because who needs a fence when the world is your playground. I still believe he will come and fit into all the other dreams like that piece of the jigsaw puzzle that finally makes sense because I’ve turned it the right way.

But I’ve never believed that God would give me two dreams only to make me choose one over the other. And while I believe in sacrifice, I’ve never believed in surrendering vital pieces of who I am in order to become a vital piece of someone else.

Because I choose to believe that there will one day be a relationship that I don’t have to force. And I know, I know, yes, I know that the only way I can be happy right now is by knowing that this is the path God has paved for me. This is the life I was made for living. And I find great comfort in the fact that I don’t have to chase down my Prince Charming; I just have to discern what God wants for my life right now and trust Him to take care of the rest.

Encouragement Hurts

Encouragement hurts.

Maybe you laughed when you read that. Or maybe you scratched your head and said, “Wha—?”

Because “hurt” doesn’t follow our definition of encouragement. Somehow we’ve come to believe that encouragement is to agree with someone. So we tell them they’ll be great at something when, in fact, they’re probably not cut out for the job. We feed their fantasies because that’s what we think they want.

We think we’re being encouraging.
We think we’re being a good friend.

But what we’re really doing is selling each other short.

I think that’s been the main problem in most of my friendships. I get tired of people who claim to be my friends telling me what I want to hear in the moment, only to find that their “supportive” claims are detrimental in the long run. Because they should have known that my gifts weren’t aligning with the shape of my dreams. And they should have been the ones clear-headed enough to see that he really wasn’t that into me.

en·cour·age

a : to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : hearten
b : to attempt to persuade : urge

I always needed someone to encourage me by the standard of Mr. Merriam-Webster.

I needed the kind of friend who would try to persuade me. The one who would inspire me with the courage to find a new dream instead of letting me cling to that hope, that chance, that slight possibility that something may come of this.

I needed the kind of friend who would help me pack up and move on when my heart is still longing to linger in a place that was only meant for passing through. The kind of friend who would sit on my over-packed suitcase as she rips the zipper into place.

“Move on, Rebekah,” she would say. “It’s time to move on.”

She would be the kind of friend who would not only take me to the airport, but walk me to security and sit there and wait until she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t go charging back out those doors. Because I would keep walking if I knew she was waiting. I would keep walking and not turn around.

And I might get upset with her for a moment. I might tell her she isn’t helping when really she’s helping more than anyone else ever dared.

Because, while she didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, she gave me what I needed. And I would always much prefer the friend who would give me what I need.

And, deep down, past the part of me that wants to stay here, I know that she’s right. The skies hold brighter things for me. There are uncharted lands that wait to be discovered. And maybe I’ll circle back to this place sometime in the future, but it wasn’t meant to hold me now. There’s no way it could hold me now.

So I’ll sit with my head pressed to the window, watching my dreams fade into clouds.

And, yes, it hurts right now, but it will be so much better in the long run.

In the long run I’ll be thankful for that painful encouragement that sets me free.

watching my dreams fade into clouds

No Wasted Dreams

As you probably know by now, I’m a monthly contributor on Devotional Diva. And you’ve probably guessed by now (because you’re a smart person who can piece things together) that today is the day my words go live in that corner of the internet.

We’re over there talking about dreams—the big kind. The kind you’ll spend the rest of your life either pursuing or watching them fade away. It’s your choice. And to be honest, it’s sort of a hard choice. Once you meet opposition, it can be all too easy to want to let go and find a dream that won’t demand so much of you.

But you can’t do that. And here’s why: No Wasted Dreams on Devotional Diva.

The Five Year Plan

A friend and I were recently talking about the problem with the question, “What’s your five year plan?”

See, it sounds like a decent question to ask someone in an interview, but here’s where the question falls short:

What was your plan five years ago?

If you tell me that you’re actually living it, I’ll be surprised and more than a little impressed. Because I, too, thought I had a grasp on what I’d be doing with my life today. But if you had told me five years ago that I would have stopped working at Advancing Native Missions for any reason other than marriage, I would have laughed in your face.

Five year plans aren’t bad in and of themselves. It’s good to have goals. It’s good to have an idea of where you’re going in life.

But when you’re so caught up in those plans you made five years ago that you can’t see how God is reshaping your dream, your plan becomes a problem. Your goal becomes your god.

And that’s where I was a little over a year ago—living the only dream I had ever dreamed. It was all I ever wanted from the time I was eight years old and read a story about Amy Carmichael and her beautiful brown eyes that saved the lives of countless children. I know, I was a rather ambitious eight year old. But those ambitions remained for the next ten years until I could finally touch them. I was there. Doing everything I ever dreamed I would be doing.

And then one day I realized I wasn’t dreaming anymore. Maybe in my heart of hearts I still wanted to be an Amy Carmichael, but somewhere along the line, my idea of ministry had changed.

When you dream one dream for twelve years, it can be absolutely terrifying to let it go.

I wrestled for months with the knowing in my heart. The knowing that it was time to let go and move on. But I was afraid. I was ever so afraid of dreaming a new dream. I was absolutely terrified of giving up the familiar.

This was uncharted territory I was exploring. This was never in the plan. Well, it was in The Plan, just not my plan.

And in the past year I’ve learned that it’s okay to throw my plans out the window. It’s okay to admit that I may have been wrong about the timing. And that maybe my dream wasn’t supposed to last five years after all.

Because I’m not the girl I was five years ago. Nor am I the girl I once imagined I would be.

But I’m finally coming to terms with that. I’m finally deciding that maybe this is where I was meant to be all along. And maybe life has grander adventures in store than the ones I conjured up with my limited imagination.

Today if you ask me my five year plan, I’ll tell you to ask The Man Upstairs. Because I’m done making plans for Him to interrupt. I think maybe it’s best if I just let Him lead me step by step.

Two Whole Years…

Two years ago today, I started a blog because I was told it was one of the best things a writer can do.

Two years ago today, I really had no idea what direction my life was heading.

Two years ago today, I only dreamed of becoming a published author.

Two years ago today, I had no idea how close I was to making my dreams come true.

Two years ago today, if I could have seen two years into the future, my mind would be completely blown away. As it is right now.

I really cannot believe how far God has brought me in the last two years.

Today, I’m still blogging and loving it. I love the days where the words come easily and I’m thankful for the days where I learn to work to force them out.

Today, I still have no idea what direction my life is going, but I’m hanging on for the ride and letting God take care of the rest.

Today, I am a published author. And I just sent off a proposal for Book #2.

Today, I can say that I watched my wildest dream unfold before my eyes. And the dream just keeps getting better.

Today, I’m completely and totally in awe of how amazing God is, and I’m looking forward watching His hand at work in the next two years of my life.

Love Letter to a Dreamer

Hey You,

Yes, You.

I hope you’ve read over the last month of archives and learned a thing or two about dreams. I hope you were encouraged by these women who have fought with dreams… and won. I hope that you, too, learn to be a survivor–the kind of person who would dare to be more than the world believes you could be.

There will be plenty of people who try to shoot you down. The line of people waiting to throw their stones never gets any shorter. So I started a line of my own. I’m in the line of people who say, “Hey You, yes, You… I believe in you. I know that you were made for great things.”

And I’m sorry to say there aren’t too many people in my line. I’m sorry to say that you’ll dodge far more rocks than embrace words made for comforting. And I’m sorry to say that curses may cling to your soul a lot longer than blessings do. The words you will remember are the ones that wounded you; not so much the ones that carried you.

So I‘m begging you to listen closely. Listen very, very closely to these words I’m going to say. And hold these words. Harbor these words. Let these words shape the very core of you.

You are, in a word, potential. Potential, potential, potential. You could go anywhere and do anything–carried away on the wings of a dream. No matter what the world says–no matter how “safe” and “practical” it wants you to be; know that you weren’t made for anything less than your wildest dreams.

So chase them. Chase your dreams wherever they may lead you. And never stop believing in them–no matter how impossible they may seem. Because the impossible dreams are the ones that are made for coming true.

You know what I want for you? I want you to find the purpose for which you are made. I want you to find your dream and run with it. And I want to jump up and down on the sidelines like I’m your biggest fan. Because I am your biggest fan you know.

And I’ll be here the whole time, cheering you on, speaking words of blessing where others throw curses. You musn’t listen to them, you know. They don’t know what they’re saying. They don’t see what I see. They don’t understand that the Maker has gifted each and every one of us and that you were made to shine.

So go ahead, Fragile Bird, spread your wings. Leap from the nest that has cradled you for so long. It’s time you realize that you were made for flying.

And don’t you forget to dream.