Fighting Through Insecurities to Reach Our Dreams

June 2012

Every since I can remember I’ve dreamed of being a dancer. I remember watching Flashdance, Footloose, Fame, and all the other fun dancing movies and thinking how much fun it would be to do that. But to achieve that goal would take hard work, discipline and talent. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but when I was ten I took my first dance lessons. To this day I can remember the recital. I also remember feeling chubby, uncoordinated, and self conscious in a class of older girls. So I quit something I loved for fear of ridicule.

When I went back to take dance lessons at 15 years old, it was obvious I’d never be good enough or catch up to the level of the other girls. My insecurities had held me back from reaching my dream of dancing.

Fast forward twenty plus years and my secret desire is taking form in ballroom and swing dance lessons. After attempting to swing dance in sandals last summer and suffering through insecurities and my ignorance on the dance floor, I thought it necessary to take lessons just in case I ever got the opportunity to go swing dancing again.

So I signed up not just for swing, but salsa, rumba, cha cha and a whole slew of dances I was “expected to master” in just seven hour long classes. Okay, I admit, I didn’t plan on mastering them all, and the dance studio’s gamble won out when I purchased another set of lessons. And after 20 plus hours, I still haven’t mastered any of the dances. But I’m not quitting, no matter how tough.

I remember one particular lesson when my instructor arrived 20 minutes late with a scowl on his face and threw me into a salsa turn  immediately when I was still trying to get the footing down.

I tried my best, but I was perfectly fine with my bent legged salsa. Unfortunately, he was not. I guess we had two different definitions of “mastering” salsa. We spent the next 30 minutes trying to get my leg to straighten. I just couldn’t get it. And the more I tried, the worse and more confused I got and the more flustered we both got.

There was a point he kept pushing me that I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and quit, and say “This is not dancing with the stars.”  In stead, I asked him if I could practice at home and if we could move onto East Coast swing.

And we did. And he threw me into a spin again when I was still adjusting to the footing, but by this time he had apologized for his attitude because he’d just quit smoking that morning AND coming from a stressful, life altering situation. We laughed through my own klutzyness and made progress. I worked through my insecurities and inadequacies and kept pushing until I figured out what I was doing wrong. If I had given into the voices in my head that told me I’d never get it and my instructor thought I was hopeless, I never would have succeeded and learned.

It’s the same with our writing or any other dream in our lives.When insecurities start to shout that I’m not a good enough writer, no one will “get me,” and my story isn’t good enough to show my agent yet, I have to push through the inadequacies I have real or imaginary. My work may not be perfect, but who better to show me how to improve it than my agent who wants me to succeed?

I might never be worthy of Dancing with the Stars, but I’m not quitting. And too bad if I have bent salsa knees, at least I’m on the dance floor!

 

 

Big Dreams Walking?

 From the archives March 18, 2010: 

Are you holding on to your BIG dreams! So am I. I wrote this five years ago and my big dream back then was to get published.  Nine months after writing this I was offered a contract for a novella. Not my ideal publishing scenario, but I’ve learned not to despise the small things. I thought it’d be interesting to revisit this post and share my thoughts today at the end!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about dreams and working hard to achieve them? A part of me believes whole heatedly in never giving up on your dreams, the other part of me wonders if the price is really worth it…if the realization of that dream will actually come to pass. If I have what it takes to carry it through to the end.

I’ve been dreaming BIG dreams my entire life, yet the only dreams that ever come to pass are the little ones. Is it because of MY effort? Am I not trying hard enough? But if I try harder, then something in my life will be out of balance. Seems a bit like works mentality to me, and that I can make it happen. Where’s God’s will in all this dreaming?

I don’t care how hard you work, you might NEVER reach your dreams. Your dreams, the dreams you think are God’s dreams might not really be HIS dream for you. That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve spent over 30 years dreaming big. Sometimes I wish I could be happy, content with small dreams. Where are you in your dream cycle?

2012, Two years later:

I haven’t given up and I haven’t stopped dreaming big dreams, but I still have doubts whether my BIG dreams will happen. I have yet to see a full length novel, though my agent believes in me 100% and is presently shopping around two of my manuscripts. If they don’t sell will I give up? Nope! I might take a breather, but I’ll keep writing.

Do I still doubt if all the work is worth it?

On my low days. But most days I don’t think about it. I don’t even think about why I’m writing anymore. I just do it. I still have BIG dreams and goals, but it’s not up to me whether or not they will come to past. I’m starting to see that it’s not so much what I accomplish, but what God accomplishes IN me a long the way.

Do I wish my journey was short and sweet, that someday soon I’ll arrive? Yep, but that’s not for me to decide either. Only God knows my path and how long it will take and as for me, my prayer of late has been “show me the next step.” My BIG dreams are still in the horizon, but I’m not focusing on them as much as I am looking down at where God wants me to follow…his next step for me!

What are you looking at as your travel this road?

Lord, help me focus on the next step instead of an unknown future. Help me to rest in your shadow as you walk beside me, showing me the next step!

Amen

Dream Killers

What’s holding you back from pursuing your dreams?

Fear of failure? Lack of direction? Passion without purpose? Defeat and envy? Disappointment in the process? Or the fact you don’t have the know-how to take the next leap towards your dreams?

I’ve suffered from many of these dream killers at one time or another and at times they can be debilitating. They can suck so much life out of your dreams, that you end up doubting more than yourself.

You start to doubt God.

I want to explore these dream killers and how to take steps to overcoming them. I’m not an expert, just a someone with a dream who’s still struggling and fighting for what I know in my heart I’ve been called to do since I was little.

Won’t you join me on this journey into evicting YOUR dream killers?

Let’s get the discussion going by identifying your dreams and what makes you want to quit for good.
March 2011

Motivation to Keep Going

May 16, 2011

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

What gets you out of bed on a lazy, rainy morning to brave a day of errands? What keeps you going when nothing you’ve planned is working? When your kids are defiant and your husband just doesn’t ‘get you’ and you’re friends, well, are only online?

How about when your dreams are crushed, and you’ve received that last writing rejection and just want to quit?

If you’ve been reading my posts and following my writing journey, you know it’s been an up hill battle for me. I write and study and attend writer’s conferences and write some more and get rejections. Then I start the process all over again. But what keeps me writing even when I say for the millionth time I’m going to quit are the little encouragements along the way.

A kind word from a friend, whether in person or on fb, a bible reading that connects with your soul, or an encouraging rejection…yes, in rejection we can find that little push we need to keep going. We just need to look past our hurts and hear what an editor or contest judge is really saying.

And then be brave enough to accept the truth and stubborn enough not to let it crush our dreams.

A little bit of encouragement along the way helps us move forward, but sometimes you have to look hard. Look hard, keep pushing, and pay it forward. Your encouragement to others just might be the thing that keeps someone else from quitting!

What encouragement can you find today?

 

Dare to Dream

The world pushes you to be sensible. Make choices that are normal, ordinary and expected. Do what has to be done and fall in line with the rest of the world. It doesn’t dare you to dream.

Dreams live beyond that place. They catch a rainbow and ride into the clouds. Dreams are beyond the understanding of the world and tend to dance to the beat of their own drum.

It matters not where you live today – tomorrow can begin your journey into that land of dreams. All that it takes is a mind willing to imagine the impossible and a heart willing to persist with consistency to bring the imagination to life.

Making the Changes that Help You Dare to Dream

Stop resting on the excuses. There will always be a reason not to do something, not to try something, or not to expect something. You can rest on the reasons or take action to make changes.

Create a map. Every journey needs a guide. Make your dream map by laying out what you want to do and practical, every day steps that you can take to get you to that dream.

Close your ears. Stop listening to the rules and regulations set up by the world. See past those limits and reach into the extraordinary that lies beyond the normal and expected.

Start playing again. The greatest dreams you dreamed happened when you were free from worries. Childhood allowed for playtime with dragons, riding unicorns, being superheroes and talking to animals. Talking to animals may not be the best route for an adult, but then again it could be just what is needed to cast off the restraints and make way for the dreaming once again.

Each person on this earth has a God given purpose. Discovering that purpose begins with the desire to be more than what is happening right now. Learning how to dream will open up the window to the heart so that the purpose and the passion become clear.

Don’t be afraid to dare to dream! Start by sharing your passion here!

What’s Wrong with Looking Toward the Mountaintop?

March 2014

It’s been a while since I had something to say. A while since I felt like I had something encouraging to say. Truth is, I’ve been the one needing the encouragement.

But today I was reminded of something as I opened by bible for the first time in a long time. Since I dusted off a devotion book I haven’t read in probably a year. And though the words in the bible and devotion book were different and unrelated, God’s message was loud and clear.

“Why do you keep looking for me on the mountain tops when I’m already here with you in the valley?”

Whoa, okay.  Can I just rewind that for a moment and tell you about the fleece I put out for God yesterday in church? See, I’m in a tough spot in my life right now, and I’ve been asking God for direction, for BIG signs that he actually cares about me. For even just a simple glimpse into the future. But there hasn’t been any floodlights on my future. He’s just illuminated each little baby step. And honestly, sometimes that’s just not enough to keep going. So in church yesterday I asked for a big sign, but it didn’t come, and I thought, “figures!”

But this morning I picked up my bible and simply asked to hear from God. I really wasn’t prepared for what happened next. I opened to the EXACT scripture the pastor spoke on in church yesterday. What are the chances of THAT in a 2000 page book? And when I mean exact, I mean EXACT. At the very top of the page the story started on the exact scripture. I didn’t bring my bible to church yesterday, so there was no reason it should open here, or was there?

So I opened my heart up and read and listened. And nothing jumped out. No big surprise. I got a few good nuggets, but nothing big. So I switched gears and opened a devotion book to where I left off. I hadn’t read it in a while. This time God’s point was a little louder. The chapter was EXACTLY what I was dealing with yesterday. The title, “Losing What I Don’t Need” hit home on so many levels as I declutter this house and get rid of stuff I can’t take with me when we down size. It’s been an emotional process letting go of things that have been tied to hopes and dreams. But the devotion reminded me “everything I seek is already here, right inside me.” It’s okay to let go of stuff and to let go of dreams. And maybe I need to fully embrace that to make room for new stuff and dreams.

But that message wasn’t the big lesson in all of this. Remember what I felt God was saying to me?

Mountain valley Yellow Flowers

“Why do you keep looking for me on the mountain tops when I’m already here with you in the valley?”

Well, before I “heard” this, I got a picture (yes, I’m a visual person) of a mountain and in the valley were yellow flowers. Lilies of the valley? I don’t know, but what I do know is while I was asking God for BIG things, for the Moses-type mountaintop experiences and signs, I was missing Him in the valley. In the tiny yellow flowers all around me. The little things that let me know He was walking beside me, like opening up to the exact scripture and story today I had heard yesterday in church, and having the next chapter in my devotion book be exactly what I had been dealing with all day yesterday (and frankly for the past year.) See, those are not mountaintop experiences, in my opinion. But they’re tiny blooms of God’s love. And they’re all around me as I walk this unknown path. They’re evidence that He’s not up on the mountain, distant and aloof like I’ve thought, but He’s right beside me, sprinkling my path with tiny yellow flowers, except I didn’t notice because I wan’t looking around me. I was looking up and focused on the wrong thing.

Do I still desire mountaintop experiences?  Absolutely, but I don’t think that’s where most of us experience God. Even though we can’t see or feel him most of the time, He’s there. With us in the valley. And that’s the biggest lesson I learned today.

I need to quit looking up to the mountain to find God and look around in the valley. For there I will find Him! Walking right along side me, giving me signs, little flowers to brighten my path. And I believe if I do that, the journey might still be rough, but it will also be more beautiful.

Are you walking in the valley? If so, quit looking to the mountain and notice the things around you. What has he set in your path that you might have missed? I’d love to know and be encouraged!

Resurrecting Your Dream Passion

Our dreams can be like a familiar childhood friend.

They’re often something we’ve grown up with and treasured in our hearts since we were little, but for one reason or another we’ve drifted away from.

We all go through seasons where our dreams need to be grounded so we can focus on other things in our lives, but there is a time to resurrect our dreams.

I struggled for years with figuring out when the time was right for me to pursue writing full time. After ten years of focusing on family, I thought it was time to resurrect my dreams. Looking back, it might have been easier to let them sleep a little longer, or if I slowly worked toward my goals those ten years. I’ll never know, but here are some thing I’ve learned along the way.

Identifying Your Dream Passion
Sometimes it’s been so long since we let ourselves dream, that we’ve forgotten what our passions are. Think back to when you were little. What were the things that brought you joy? Did those same activities extend to your high school and college years? Did you lose your passion in the busyness of family rearing and life? Still stumped at identifying your passion? How about the things you did that you felt God’s smile of approval or presence in? Ask God to stir up a passion inside of you for His glory. Then expect him to!

Pray Before You Leap
It seems so simple, but why don’t we do it? For me, it’s because I’m driven and I see others with the “prize” and I think “I can do that.” But I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try or how talented I think I am, God’s the one in control, not me. I can strive all I want (and I believe in working toward my goals,) but ultimately God knows when I’m ready to take that leap toward my dreams. I’ve learned the hard way not to rush it. Don’t make the same mistake.

Banish the Naysayers
Sometimes our biggest dream killers are our inner voices that tell us our dreams are too impractical or unrealistic. That’s why they’re called dreams! While some seasons of dreaming might have to be practical like having a steady job or bigger home, I believe inside everyone is a dream that connects with our soul that if left to sleep too long with eventually die, killing your spirit as well! Allow yourself to wake the dream!

If you feel that now is your time to resurrect your dream, you might be terrified. But how scary is it to live without the pursuit of our passions? To live with the doubt of never knowing if you might have succeeded because your never even tried or gave up too soon.

I don’t want to live with those regrets.

Do you?

first posted April 2011

 

Don’t Let Anyone Steal the Music of Your Soul!

November 2011

Last weekend I saw the musical Memphis, and I was blown away. The music, the dancing, the story… By the end I was in tears. Sure, the storyline took me on an emotional journey of two star-crossed lovers in Memphis, a segregated, racist city, in the 1950s, a time when blacks and whites didn’t mix. It was obvious there would be conflict, drama, passion, and a bitter sweet ending. I expected all that on the stage, but what I didn’t expect was all the conflict, drama and passion to rise up inside of me.

The message of the musical was clear. Don’t let anyone steal your the music of your soul.

A brief synopsis of the story follows Huey Calhoun, a poor white boy, who never followed the rules and always insisted on doing things his way. He never kept a job and was considered a failure, until the day he heard the music of his soul coming from an “underground” rock and roll joint on the wrong side of town. He followed the music, fell in love with the voice of a rhythm and blues singer, and turned the white community upside down when he played  black music on a white radio station, eventually landing him the number one radio program in Memphis.

Felicia Farrell, a young black singer, longed to be a star in Memphis, but knew her color prevented her from ever singing on the radio, until Huey gave her that opportunity. Her popularity grew and their secret love blossomed despite opposition. Then at the peak of their careers in Memphis, Huey makes a foolish decision that puts Felicia in danger and his television career blows up in his face. New opportunities open for Felicia to follow her dreams in New York, a city more tolerant of blacks, but Huey refuses to leave Memphis, claiming “Memphis lives in me.”

The parting was bitter sweet, but I supported Felicia’s choice 100 % and thought Huey a selfish fool not to help the woman he loved follow her dreams. Foolish for insisting on staying the same while he sparked a revolution in the community around him.

At that moment, the story hit too close to home for me. Often times over the years I’ve felt family and friends just didn’t get this writing thing. They didn’t understand that it is was more than a hobby, a passing phase or a whim. They couldn’t comprehend that writing was the music of my soul. Over the years they tried to be supportive, but our definitions of support didn’t match and often times I grew tired of trying to justify WHY I needed to write. Why I had to pursue this dream. Why writing was the music of my soul.

Fast foward in the Memphis story four years and Huey is down on his luck, his fame and name forgotten. Felicia is a big star and is engaged to someone else. Someone I suppose who was able to support her in her dream. Though  Huey and Felicia remained friends, and Huey pretended he was happy, I didn’t believe it. I don’t think anyone in the audience believed it either.

But he was Huey. Unable or unwilling to change. He could have left Memphis and gone to NY with Felicia and had a career of his own there. But he wouldn’t have been able to do it his way. Still he would have been with the woman he loved and they would’ve been safe. They would’ve been together. Instead, Huey dug his feet into Memphis and decided not to change his ways, leaving him a pathetic, lonely man, sad and stagnant. While the woman he loved, whom he couldn’t fully support, followed her dream and changed, blossomed.

Before the final number, Felicia says, “Huey, sometimes I think you tried to change the world and then refused to change with it.” That one line just about summed it up!

The musical ended with the cast singing “Don’t let anyone steal your rock and roll.” (song and lyrics below) I’m not sure where I “lost it,” during this song, but when a story connects with your soul, you can’t help but get emotional. And isn’t that why we write? To take the reader on a powerful emotional journey, to connect with the music of their soul.

I want to encourage you today. Don’t let anyone steal what’s in your soul! Don’t be stagnant and fearful of change or opportunities so that you end up living a life God never intended for you.

It makes me sad thinking about who Huey could have become. How many people he could have reached instead of being forgotten in a town that used to love him.

I don’t want to be Huey. I don’t want to hang around people like Huey. I want to be like Felicia and chase after my dreams. I want to see where God will take me.  I want to sing the music that’s in my soul!

What about you?

 

“Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Rock and Roll” Lyrics

HUEY:
I listened to advice from folks smarter than me,
And I ignored it.
I listened to hatred from folks richer than me,
And I deplored it.
I listened to music from folks darker than me,
And you know I adored it!

FELICIA/COMPANY:
First come’s a point in everybody’s life
When they gotta stand up and face a fight.
There comes a point in everybody’s life,
When they gotta wonder if they done right.
I swallowed my fear, followed my heart right here,
And through it all one almighty thought stood clear-
Listen to the beat, listen to the beat
Play it, obey it, love it with, love it with your feet.

HUEY:
Oooh oh oh
Listen to your soul, listen to your soul,
Heed it,

FELICIA:
Heed it

HUEY:
Ya need it

FELICIA:
Ya need it,

HUEY:
Let it make/ let it make you whole.
And if ya listen to the beat
And hear what’s in your soul-
You’ll never let anyone steal your rock ‘n roll!

HUEY/FELICIA/COMPANY:
Listen to the beat, listen to beat
Play it, play it
Obey it, obey it
Love it with/love it with your feet!
Listen to your soul/listen to your soul
Heed it, heed it
Ya need it, ya need it
Let it make you whole!
And if ya listen to the beat and hear what’s in your soul-
You’ll never let anyone steal your rock ‘n roll!
Listen to the beat and hear what’s in your soul-
You’ll never let anyone steal your rock ‘n roll.
Listen to the beat, listen to the beat
Play it, obey it
Love it with your feet!
Listen to your soul
Heed it, heed it
Ya need it, ya need it
Let it make/let it make you whole!
And if you listen to the beat
And hear what’s in your soul-
You’ll never let anyone/ never let anyone/
Never let anyone steal your rock ‘n roll!

When You’re Not the Only One in Your Family with a Dream

From the Editor: I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal goals, my children’s dreams, and what I want my family to look like. Unfortunately, all three are often in conflict with one another at different times.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to write, and I’ve never doubted the calling, though I’ve struggled often with finding the time to pursue my dreams. I started my first novel right after I got married, then I had my first son and writing took a back seat to the demands of mothering.

I didn’t know there were writing support groups like ACFW, and I didn’t have writing friends to encourage me. I didn’t know I could write and raise children like so many do now, though in a way I’m glad I didn’t know. It allowed me to focus on my children and hold on to my dreams, knowing that one day my chance would come. So I set aside my WIP for ten years or so, had three more babies and did occasional magazine work. But my heart wanted to return to fiction.

I thought when my fourth child was two that it was finally time to start working on my own dreams of being published. Little did I know was that at the very same time God was calling me to homeschool.

What ensued there after was this stressed out mom trying to learn how to homeschool, be a good mother and write. Unfortunately, I felt like a failure on all three fronts at one time or another, somehow getting off balance at different times until my priorities became so out of whack that I had to sacrifice my writing and dreams for a season. The grieving process was real and painful. But in that grief Writer…Interrupted was birthed, and I started to interview other moms who seemed to do it all.

I grew as a mom and writer.

The other day I read something from Mary M. Byers that resonated with me.

“When you say yes to something in your life, you automatically say no to something else.”

I wish I would’ve understood that sooner. Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so anxious to move on to the next stage of my life and career. Maybe I would’ve savored each moment just a little longer.

Now that my kids are older and have dreams of their own, I’m trying to balance theirs with mine. It’s a never ending learning curve as I adjust and evaluate just how much dream pursuit this family can handle. How much I can handle and do before I burn out.

Will there be some regrets and what ifs? Probably, but if I remember that when I’m saying NO to the pursuit of someone’s dream (including my own,) I  just might be saying YES to something more important!

What are you saying YES to today? And what are you willing to wait for?

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

Who can forget that beloved Ms. Frizzle who inspired her class to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”All but play-it-safe Arnold loved Ms. Frizzle’s field trips that took them to places they’d never been before, often leading them into scary and unfamiliar territory. But oh the adventures they had! Even Arnold would end up enjoying himself when he finally quit focusing on the danger.

Sometimes I feel like Arnold, wanting to remain in the comfort zone, showing my work only to safe people, people I know will love it. But to go places I’ve never been before (like publication) and to experience the excitement and wonder of taking chances (getting a contract,) I first need to get messy and not dwell on the mistakes I’ll make (writing my manuscript.)

The other day before I sent my proposal to my agent I reflected on Ms. Frizzles words again and felt a bit like Arnold. I’m still only learning to write a first draft without editing the whole thing as I go. It’s not easy to leave my mess on the page and move on. It’s not easy to see mistakes in my plot and know I must plow forward before I go back and fix things. And it’s not easy to take chances and hit send on my words before I believe they’re ready to be viewed by professional eyes.

But that’s what I did. I hit send on my proposal to my agent because ACFW conference is in few weeks, and I’d rather look like an idiot in front of him, then in front of an editor. It’s not easy to get feedback on our mess, but it’s necessary. In fact, it was my agent who once told me “you can’t fix nothing!” So I figured he, if anyone, would understand my mess!

The email response came today. Before I opened, I took a deep breath, then hesitated. Then dove into the email, taking a chance, again. To my relief he said, “my writing is really good.” Of course, he pointed out a mess I needed to clean up before I showed an editor, but I took a chance and I’m glad I did. Now I can move forward with a little more confidence than before.

Are you taking chances or are your messes and mistakes keeping you from your next adventure?

First published September 2011 Though the details are different the sentiment still holds true today!