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In high school I set plenty of goals: captain of the cheerleading squad, valedictorian, president of the student government, county Jr. Miss, etc. Some goals were met, others not. When I went to college, my one spoken goal was to meet my man. Of course, I certainly wanted to graduate, join a sorority, find a church to plug into, form friendships, and cheer on the Auburn Tiger football team—which I did! But those weren’t audibly stated goals; they were more like checkboxes waiting to be ticked off.
Fast forward fifteen years (where does the time go?) and many more goals have brought me to today: wife, mom of two, former foster-mom of one, writer, and a woman passionate about apologetics, fitness, enjoying the outdoors, and making disciples, both in home education and women’s groups. However, I can say with greatest certainty that all the short-term or long-term planning I have ever considered would not have placed me exactly in the setting that I find myself. Yes, I wanted to be a wife, mom, and writer, but the details are different than I would have planned.
So, what does this talk of goals have to do with my current dreams?
Let’s consider that goals and dreams are different, yet related. A goal is a stair-step up the tall tower of our dreams. For instance, I would like to one day publish a book. My goals of writing weekly blog posts and contributions for the iBelieve community are stair-steps to prepare me for the task of one day writing a book. These disciplines are preparing me for that future discipline.
All women—married, barren, or bursting with parental responsibilities—can find excuses as to why they cannot presently pursue their dreams and must place them on the proverbial back burner. Why this common theme among women of vastly different stages in life? To me, the answer is two-fold.
First, we fail to recognize that we are in the midst of living part of our dreams.
College student, you dreamed of earning a degree. Single business professional, you dreamed of the day you would put your education to use. Young mom, you dreamed of the day you would hold a child in your arms that called you mom. Empty nester, you dreamed of the day that the kids would be grown and you would have your time back. However, once we have checked off a goal or a dream has been fulfilled, it may seem to lose its luster.
The partial dreams we are living now are preparing us for the future dreams that God will fulfill. Our now is building in us disciplines, experiences, and passions that our future dreams require.
The dreams of being a wife, mom, and writer don’t always feel as if they are dreams fulfilled because I take them for granted… because there is always more work to do… because they are not a destination we arrive at but a work that continues.
Before I was married, I thought about who the one was frequently. Before we had children, prayers were made for them. Now that I am married and the kids have arrived, the real work of loving and parenting well often overshadows the dream of being a wife and mom.
The second reason we put dreams on the backburner is because we feel as if the new dreams that are developing cannot be pursued because of the everyday demands of living.
In the earlier years of our marriage, I read Life Equity: Realize Your True Value and Pursue Your Passions at Any Stage in Life by U.S. Congressman Marsha Blackburn. In the book, Congressman Blackburn emphasized the need to develop a personal mission statement. Through the reading and application of her book, along with Katie Brazelton’s, Pathway to Purpose for Women, I developed my own personal mission statement. My mission statement helps me determine if opportunities or pursuits are in line with my life’s mission, or dream. The aims of my mission statement guide me so that when the end of my life comes, I might arrive at the destination I was setting my eyes on, not merely a long wandering that ended.
Everyday choices we make are small steps toward our ultimate dreams. We can sit and smolder over the lack of opportunities or tangible gains towards our goals, or we can do what is in our reach each day to make progress. We can read that book, research that trip, look into that college program, sign up for that lesson.
Some days I will choose to watch Frozen for the twentieth time knowing that it is a (perhaps unlikely) step up the tower to the dream called blessed mother. Other days, my choice will be leaving the kids home alone with dad or a grandparent so that I can go and read an apologetics book or write a blog post making one small step up the tower of the dream of affecting the nations and the generations with the gospel and knowledge of Christ Jesus. Either way, taking those intentional steps will place me nearer the tower door of dreams met and a life well-lived.
Tending the daily to-do’s of living doesn’t take us away from the path of reaching our goals, it prepares us for those goals. Field experience develops our abilities to prioritize, problem solve, and practice what we preach.
The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. (Proverbs 14:1, ESV)
So if you feel as though your dream is on the back burner, start taking those small, intentional, everyday steps in the right direction and you will find progress toward a dream met.
Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.