“If God can do this for me, He can do it for anyone.”
“What if you gave up on your dream today, and tomorrow was the day that it came true.”
“Never let your dreams die!”
You’ve been working so hard – maybe it’s a business, a ministry, a relationship – and you realize it’s not happening. You keep praying and hustling and for some reason, some unknown reason, the thing that you knew was supposed to happen, the thing you felt in your bones was God’s will for your life, is not happening.
I’ve felt this several times.
The job as manager of a bridal boutique when I was in my early 20’s.
My first marriage.
A radio show. (For two different major ministries.)
Oh there are many more. But these three? I remember where I was standing, what I was wearing, who I was with when that particular dream died.
One of these dreams was killed for me. It was a long painful death that caused me a lot of hurt and heartbreak. And the other two? I had to be the one to let it go – to make the decision that these particular dreams were over and it was time to move on.
Those were some of the hardest decisions of my life.
I was past the point of being sensible. Others saw that my dream was not going to happen. But I had those voices inside my head (and later, on Facebook) that told me differently.
“You and God can do anything.”
“Don’t give up on your dream!”
“With God, all things are possible.”
So I kept willing my dreams to stay on life support instead of letting them die with the dignity that they (and I) deserved.
Because even though everything is possible with God, it doesn’t mean God gives you every possibility.
Oh, I say I want God more than anything else. I know all the right things to say. But I want God through my dream. I want God to do what I want God to do, and give me my dreams so I can point to Him and say “Only God.”
But God promised his presence – not my presents.
So how do you let a dream die? Something that you’ve prayer for, prepared for, and invested in? How do you say goodbye? Here are some hard steps I’ve needed to wrestle through:
1 Acknowledge that it was important to you. This is not a time to be the fox with the grapes who said, “They probably were sour anyway.” So many times we try to explain away disappointment instead of feeling out way through it. It is good and right to grieve a dream that will never happen. It is important to acknowledge this was important to you. And then, there is a process of letting go. For me, this process involves praying, reading God’s word, talking with trusted people (my close circle of friends, my husband, my pastor,) and honestly, crying.
Looking at the five stages of grief that we go through when someone close to us dies, I think it’s interesting and helpful to note that we must go through those five stages when a dream dies.
1. Denial – refusing to let the dream die
2. Anger – Feelings of injustice that the dream is being taken away
3. Bargaining – Trying to make deals with God to get the dream back
4. Depression – Mourning the loss of the dream
5. Acceptance – Moving on and making room for a new dream.
But I believe for those of us who know God, there is a 6th step to grief.
6. Hope – We get to hope for better things. Yes, a dream has died, it is worth grieving. But when our faith is made real? We get to experience real hope.
If a dream is worth dreaming, it’s worth properly grieving.
2. Spend some time wrestling with God. It might be worth examining whether there was a reason God is withholding this particular dream. Is there something in my life that God is trying to get me to pay attention to? Is there sin that needs to be resolved? Or my favorite – has the dream become an idol. (Ugh – the ugly mirror.) Psalm 139:23 says “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” That is a bold verse to pray, but in order to have true breakthrough and understanding of what God is up to in our lives, we must be willing to confess every part we try to hide from God.
3. Understand that there is more than one way for a dream to happen. Maybe the dream isn’t dead – maybe the method is. Maybe you have been working, trying and striving, and God is saying, “Wait.” Maybe, this is not the right time, the right method, or the right person. The dream is alive, but the way is different.
4. Pay close attention to the other things God is doing in your life.Ten years ago, I wrote down 50 dreams I wanted to pray over and commit to God. 34 of those dreams have come to fruition. There are seven that I am still praying over. The other nine? I’ve come to understand that they are not part of God’s plan for my life.
And that is just fine with me.
When you see the other areas where God is moving and growing you, it’s easier to give up the things that no longer matter, that are no longer important. It’s so much easier to let a dream die when you have a record of all the great things He has done.
5. Make Room for God to give you a new dream.Just because the dream is dead, doesn’t mean the dreamer is. And the author of our lives? He is alive and waiting for you to take part in His amazing plan for your life.
Pray that God would give you the desires of His heart, so that when you dream, you can live bigger than even you can imagine.
Dream boldly. Great things have been accomplished because God’s people dared to dream boldly. But listen carefully. Is God doing something new in your life that you need to make room for?
What dream have you had to let die?
Many women find it easy to pray for the concerns and well-being of others. But when it comes to praying for themselves, it’s another story. If you are letting go of a dream and want to pray through your grief (which I highly recommend) Praying God’s Word for Your Life is a great tool to walk you through the experience.
In this book, I give you simple strategies that will:
· create a habit of praying with renewed boldness
· generate the desire for consistency in her prayer life
· provide proper expectations to see her prayers fulfilled in God’s ultimate plan for her life.
When was the last time you made time for yourself? Like literally planning nothing? Now sure, you may write on your calendar ‘get pedicure’ (that counts) but there is this GLORIOUS thing on a calendar called white space. Have you heard of it?? It is literally that… space for nothing. You should try and add some white space to that busy calendar of yours! (for inspiration check out this podcast we did last Finding Whitespace during Christmas)
Assignment: Find one way to refresh and recharge yourself. Here are some ideas;
get lunch with a friend
take a long hot shower
read a book in a cozy chair with a hot cup of tea
browse Pinterest mindlessly for one hour guilt free
watch a great Christmas classic on TV
call a friend and talk for long enough it felt like a visit
choose 2 days next month on the calendar for white space
Lest you be tempted, today is not a catch up day, it’s a RELAX day. You deserve it once in a while. Besides, you will be so much more effective when you do.
Need some fun inspiration for ideas for an upcoming gathering? Evite has a new look (similar to Pinterest) and you can just take one hour and aimlessly look! How fun is that? Click here to browse.
Today: Schedule in times of real rest in your day, week and month as you are working toward your goals.
I sigh as my husband Roger and I are driving over highway 17 heading towards Santa Cruz. Driving over the mountains toward the beach and the boardwalk, surrounded by redwoods and local farms and state parks. “Do you realize how blessed we are to live where we do?” “Yes.” Roger replied. “And if I didn’t, you saying it every day of our marriage would remind me.” I didn’t realize how deep my love for the Bay Area ran until Roger pointed out that I commented on it every single day. (He should be doubly grateful – I was born in Northern California – he moved here from Indiana where digging his car out snow before driving it during the winter was a common occurrence.) But how can you blame me? We live less than a half a day’s drive almost anything you can think of: the beach during the summer, the mountains during ski season, San Francisco when there is a musical coming through, great ethnic restaurants, and not once have I had to dig my car out a blanket of snow. There is only one thing missing from our little corner of paradise – a Chick-fil-a.
If you have not experienced the perfection that is the Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich, let me describe it for you. It is a chicken patty that is breaded and then deep friend in peanut oil (trust me, it works) it is served on a buttered bun with two pickle slices (they say that you can add tomatoes and lettuce, but why ruin it with healthy stuff.) Chick-fil-a also has a healthy menu. Whatever.
I love Chick-fil-a and what they stand for and their chicken sandwiches so much, that at one point, I had a Google alert for articles about how they run their business. (I’m not just a fan, I’m a super fan.) As I started to read more and more about how they run their business and the values that they have, I fell in love with them for more than their deep-fried chicken breast. This is an amazing company that values their employees and customers. Chick-fil-a is very selective about who gets to sling that chicken. “It’s easier to get a job in the CIA than to own a Chick-fil-A franchise,” is a favorite saying at the corporate office. They have one of the highest employee retention rates in any service industry. Part of that is the careful screening they do before hiring someone. Another reason? No Chick-fil-a is open on Sunday.
While visiting our friends Steve and Shannon in Colorado Springs, they introduced us to Chick-fil-a and then told us the closed on Sunday policy. I know that Steve and Shannon are intelligent people, but I honestly believed that they had to be mistaken. Fast food restaurants are not closed for a whole day. I had worked in the service industry enough to know that Sunday was a major money-making day. Industry experts were baffled as well. But listen to this response that Dan Cathy, president and Chief Operations Officer of Chick-fil-a, gave to talk show host Dave Ramsey when Dave asked the question about the business sense of closing on Sundays. “My younger brother and sister and I signed a covenant of agreement that we gave our parents about five years ago that said that long after they’re gone, assuming that we survive them, that we’re going to continue to be closed on Sunday. To be honest with you our corporate purpose is to glorify God by being the faithful steward of all He has entrusted to us and have a positive influence on people.
But I would share with you that as a business person it really does work for us. It makes a difference. We are more rested on Monday because you’ve been able to take the day off to rest and renew ourselves. Our smiles are bigger and I think even our Drive-thrus run a little faster on Monday because we had Sunday off.
We are not built 24-7. God built our body to have eight hours of sleep and to take some time off. And we found that we pick up on that productivity. Any business we lose on Sunday we more than make up for a better service and better atmosphere on Monday.”
Sabbath – Not Just for Old Testament Folks
OK there is some stuff in the Bible that doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense to me:
Don’t let cattle graze with other kinds of Cattle
Don’t have a variety of crops on the same field
Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric And I have to admit, that observing a Sabbath was one of those rules that felt a lot like the instructions not to mix a cotton-weave with a poly-blend – a bit antiquated. Observing a Sunday off is a hard thing. I was talking about the concept of a Sabbath with my agent, Rachelle. She said, “If I want to observe a Sabbath, I need to prepare for six hours on Saturday to be able to rest on Sunday. If my husband wants to observe Sabbath, he takes a nap.”
But the more that Roger and I were intentional about having a day to rest, a day to put away our computers, not plan work, and focus on God, our family and restoring ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, the more we feel we are able to slide back into work having taken our stress down a level or two.
I have definitely discovered in my own life that when I indulge in the false economy of trying to get more done by work seven days a week, not only do I suffer, but my goals suffer. That is why I want you to rest your way to success.
• Make sure you have some “down time” every week where your focus is not getting things done, but getting deeper with God and with community, and getting rest.
• Make sure you have a beginning and an end to each week.
• Make sure you have a beginning and an end to each work day. (No spreading work from eight in the morning until ten at night). I know the last project you would expect is for me to say work less. But I do want you to make sure that you don’t burn out. I want you to be living a life that is full of God-adventure for years to come.
So tell me in the comments below below – when are you going to rest.
Getting a Couple of People to Hold You Accountable
Today: Find a couple of women to hold you accountable for your goal. I could be the women you are already working this book with, or it could be women who have the same goals as you do.
The Goal Girls started six years ago when every area of my life was in transition. My marriage was falling apart and I found myself back in the job market to support myself and my kids. On top of all that, I needed to find a new place to live. I felt like everything was spinning out of control.
I knew that I also needed to makes some changes in other areas of my life. Spending time with God had become a faint memory for me. I wanted to reconnect in a real way, but I was having trouble being committed to my day-to-day relationship with Him.
I needed support that was more than a once-a-week Bible study. I needed people around me to love and guide me through this hurtful time in my life.
At the same time, my friend Vikki, a 30 year-old wife and mother, was just plain overwhelmed. With her two active kids, and another on the way, she was feeling the pressures of keeping it all together. In addition to taking care of her family, Vikki worked outside the home several nights a month, and was the women’s ministry leader at our growing church. The fast pace of Vikki’s life was threatening to swallow her up if she didn’t makes some changes immediately.
Another friend, Angela, young and vibrant at 34, had an even more desperate situation. Complicating her busy life caring for her two small girls, her health was in serious jeopardy and she knew that she had to take some radical steps including losing weight and exercising in order to start restoring herself physically so that she could lead a normal life.
All of us were longing for change. We wanted to live healthier lives, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Each of us needed help figuring out what God designed us to do, but we also needed a way of making sure that we stayed on track- someone to hold our feet to the fire.
I asked Angela and Vikki if they would be interested in trying an accountability group. I was honest and upfront,” I had no idea how it would work, but I am so frustrated and scared that I am willing to try just about anything. I guess we can just make it up as we go along?” Apparently, they were just as desperate and we decided to meet the next week.
That was eight years ago, and we are still supporting each other, praying for each other and holding each other in godly accountability.
What is Accountability?
Accountability is simply having to report to someone the progress you are making on an activity. When you work in an office, you’re accountable to a boss for the work that she assigns you. Even if you are a self-starter, most of us need that little bit of outside pressure to get our jobs done well and on time. What do you do when you‘re running a household, your own business, and your own life, and there is no “boss” to answer to? Asking other women to hold you accountable is a great way to have a little bit of that outside pressure to help you stay on track. Vikki, Angela and I sacrifice time from our overcrowded lives to stay accountable to one another because it is biblical and it works. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Being with one other and holding one another accountable keeps us focused and on task.
How is accountability different than a support group?
Generally support groups include organizations that focus either on a stage of life (including mom’s groups or after divorce groups), or a specific area to overcome (Overeaters Anonyms or Alcoholics Anonyms.) Generally these groups have up to dozens of members at each meeting. While support groups offer an environment to meet with others who are in your situation and the opportunity to learn and be encouraged, there is generally a lower level of follow up for individual members.
Accountability groups offer the chance to meet with one or two other people in order to stay focused on whatever area of their life they are trying to grow in at that time. While neither Angela nor Vikki are writers or step-mothers, they are able to hold me accountable in those areas by following-up on the goals I have set for myself and shared with them at past gatherings.
What it looks like for us
We came to our once a month meetings prepared with our goals already written out. I dedicate one sheet of paper to each area of my life. There is a page dedicated to health, another for important relationships in my life, one for household management, and so on. Sometimes my goal list will be much longer in one area than another. When one of my kids needs special attention, or I have good friend who is going through a tough time, I may have several goals on my “Relational” page, but almost none in another area. Along with each goal, we set a target date that we want to see the goal completed by. For instance, on my “Spiritual” goal sheet, I might write: Goal Date of Completion Join Bible study September 15th
When we write out our goals, we try to be specific and realistic. Instead of setting a goal of get better at cooking, I might write “Try three new main courses from the new Greek Cookbook”, or “Sign up for the Asian cooking class at the community center.” When I started to focus more on spending time with God, Angela reminded me to be specific and realistic. At first, I had written the goal down as “Spend 45 minutes every day in prayer and quiet time.” Angela graciously but firmly challenged me on my completely unrealistic goal. “Kath, how are you going to go from 0 to 45 minutes? Why don’t you start with five minutes a day and build on that.” From that five minute block of time, I have grown into having a meaningful and significant quiet time every day.
When we first started meeting eight years ago, we were in for a reality check. Over the first few months of sharing, we learned to gently say to each other, “Wow, that looks like a lot to accomplish with two kids and everything else going on in your life. Is it realistic? Is there something that you could give up or move to another month?” We have learned to protect each other from overextending ourselves, and in turn, have learned to take care of our own schedules and bodies.
The next time we get together, we give each person 40 minutes to go over last month’s goals and set out her vision for the next month. We make copies of our goals that we can pass out to the other two. That way, we have an easier time checking in with each other.
Between each meeting, we stay up to date on where each of us is in meeting our goals set out at the last meeting, as well as asking for additional support when we need it. For example, the weeks before I moved to a different city, I needed more support, what we lovingly call “kick-butt accountability”, in staying focused and on track with getting my house packed up and ready to be sold. During those pressure-filled weeks, I would receive several phone calls a day asking how my plan was going. Just knowing that Vikki or Angela could be calling at any moment gave me the extra push I needed to stay on track and tackle what had to be done.
Your accountability group can also be focused on one specific area of your life. I have separate groups for more complex goals I am currently on: health and writing. These groups give me the special support I need to accomplish bigger projects in those areas.
The Benefits of Accountability
Our group has gotten the three of us through life together. Angela and Vikki have prayed and held me accountable through the hardest time of my life. During the rough days, it was a huge comfort to know that I had two godly women who knew what I was going through and could remind me that God had designed me for a greater purpose than what I felt like at the moment.
Following my divorce, I really wrestled with the question of where God was in my life. I felt abandoned and unloved. It was Vikki and Angela who reminded me of all that God had brought me through, and pointed out all the ways that God continued to care for me even when I couldn’t feel his presence.
Getting through rough times is a blessing, but the most thrilling part of accountability is seeing the progress in each other’s lives. It’s been an honor to stand with Angela and Vikki as I’ve seen them accomplish goals that none of us would have dreamed possible just a few short years ago. From keeping our houses clean, to losing weight to opening a small business to walking a half marathon–no goal is too big to not be supported. On the flip side, no goal is too small that it is not celebrated when it is reached. Plus, the biggest honor was to have these two ladies celebrate with me as bridesmaids at my wedding to Roger. While people who attended the wedding were excited to celebrate our new lives together, Angela and Vikki were two of the people who had walked me back to a place of loving and growing in God – a place of health and healing. These women were not only celebrating the future I had with Roger, but the past that they had walked me though to get to the place where I could be part of a healthy marriage.
Today: Check in with God with some concentrated prayer and meditation. (Talking to God, and then listening to Him.) Even if it is just for 10 minutes, get quite with God listen for His direction when it comes to your goal.
My husband Roger and I had just landed at Tampa International Airport. While the purpose of our travel was to visit Roger’s parents, we decided to sneak in some “couple’s time” before heading to the family reunion.
Roger had booked a romantic hotel on the beach only two miles from the airport. Since airlines do not provide meals anymore, our combined food intake for the cross-country journey from California consisted of three bags of peanuts and a half a box of Altoids I rescued from the bottom of my bag. We were anxious to stow our suitcases at the hotel and head out for our beach-side dinner.
As we picked up our rental car, I was eager to try out the new navigational system Roger just bought me. You see, I have a tendency to get lost while I am driving… even in areas I have been to several times. Roger said he bought the new GPS system for my safety. Really, I think he got tired of guiding me in like an air traffic controller every time I was more than three miles from the house.
I love my new mapping device – with one tiny exception. When you first turn on the display, Maggie (our pet-name for our electronic guide) needs about 15 seconds to figure out where the satellite is. This process goes much faster if you stay put. If you start to drive, it could take up to whole two minutes for her to figure out where you are.
I have never been known as a patient woman. Even 15 seconds is about 14 seconds too long. Growing weary of waiting I asked Roger, “Can’t we just get going and it will catch up with us.” Roger knew the general direction of the hotel, so we hit the road. Our destination was only a couple of miles away. What could go wrong?
After a few minutes, and a turn on to an onramp, Maggie, finally came blinking to life with directions and distance … 22.2 miles!
How did our “couple of miles away” hotel turn into a 22 mile trek? That is when I discovered something I had never experienced in California called a “causeway.”
A causeway is a road that goes over a body of water. Like the body of water between the Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg, Florida. Because there tends not to be a convenient place to turn around while traveling over water, and the fact our car was not Herbie the Love Bug with the ability to float, we were stuck going the whole distance over the causeway. And back – 22.2 miles round trip.
If we had only taken the 14 extra seconds to wait for directions – instead of going off on our own – we would have saved time, aggravation and grief.
Soon after our ill-fated trip, I was doing my morning devotionals and this verse popped out at me: It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. – Proverbs 19:2
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Traveling with Maggie is a lot like figuring out the path God wants you to follow for your life and for your goals. The parallels show up for me almost every time I get lost. OK, almost every time I leave the house.
Gifts of the Maggie #1 You will be much better off if you wait for directions.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3
As women, we don’t have an excess of time or energy to be heading off in the wrong direction while chasing after our dreams. We need a much simpler, direct route. Time and commitment spent up-front praying and listening to God for direction will always be rewarded down the road.
Sometimes in my enthusiasm to get closer to my goals, I have an “Act Now, Pray Later” attitude. I get impatient and want to get going with all the plans and dreams I have for my life – now. When I act out of desire, enthusiasm, or trying to simply check things off my list, I usually end up wasting time, energy and emotion.
Like Maggie, God has a lot of rewards for those who wait on direction from Him. When I pray before I act, I may not have clear direction all at once. What I can be sure of is the fact that I have put my plans before God. I am honoring Him first in everything I do, every plan I make.
Gifts of the Maggie #2 You don’t need to know every turn that is coming up – you just need to know what your next step is.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34 Don’t ever try to give me directions over the phone. I am good for about two turns and then my brain starts to think about the Discovery Channel special I saw last night, or tries to figure out when the cute pink bag I saw at the mall might go on sale. When I get directions all at once, trying to hold everything in my head about the next eight turns I need to make it is almost always a guarantee I am going to get hopelessly lost, confused, frustrated and off-track. The beauty of Maggie is that she only gives you the next turn you have to make.
As busy women, we can get bogged down by the magnitude of all we have to do. If we start to look too closely at all is involved in having a rewarding career or raising great kids and pursuing our dream, it would be very easy to get completely overwhelmed.
A better approach is to take each day as it comes. Planning for the future is great. Worrying about it will get you nowhere. Keep your final destination in mind, and concern yourself with the turn just ahead of you. God is the only one who can see around the corner.
The other benefit of just focusing on the turn right in front of you, and not worrying about the next seven that are coming up, is getting to enjoy the ride. When you have a dream that is bigger than yourself, there are many opportunities to step out in faith and see God’s hand working in your life.
I tend to miss the miracles in the moment when I am worrying about what has to happen next month. Just concentrate on the next turn and enjoy the ride.
Gifts of the Maggie #3 Trust the directions- even if they are different than what you expect. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21
Sometimes for fun, I will check out Maggie’s directions to a familiar place, just to see if she has a different way of getting there. Often times, she will have a shortcut I didn’t know about, or there is a new road I had yet to discover. I have learned a lot by going in different directions than I originally thought.
Today, I just want you to spend some time checking in with God. Am I going in the right direction? Do you want me to press forward on something, or wait? Learning to be sensitive to God’s leading is a skill we can develop. Tell us in the comments below how you are going to stop and spend time with God today and everyday. Is it a coffe date alone, during the kids nap time, getting up earlier, or during a lunch break? If you feel led to do so share with me what God is directing you to do, press on, wait or be still.