Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Great Expectations: A Ream of Dreams

I'm reading Great Expectations right now, one of Charles Dickens' most beloved and widely read novels. What riches I am finding inside this wise story! I'll spare you the book review but at the very least, the contents of this book make me think of my own great expectations for my life and what I hope to see and achieve in my lifetime.

Like the expectations I have for my writing. I've been writing all sorts of things since I was a kid - poetry, short stories, a few magazine articles here and there, some newspaper articles and a zine in college, and now I've been trying to be more disciplined by writing on this blog. But I want to get published. How scary to type that last sentence, realizing the real weight of all the commitment, calling and sweat that is required. I want to be a real, too legit to quit author of something meaningful and inspiring. I realize my expectations are not in line with my disciplines. Writing is way harder than it looks. And I'm so very inconsistent. For me, it's all about making it a daily practice, and pushing myself to work hard when I don't feel inspired or eloquent or philosophical. It's about stretching myself and writing for practice, not just to be profound or amazing or original. I've never done this kind of thing before. I can feel the growth. I can see the stretch marks.

I have expectations for my reputation. Oh, nothing glamorous or fame-laden, if you would know, but I'd like to be a role model for teenagers. And a support system and sounding board for fellow moms. One day, I'd like to do foreign mission work full time. I'd like to be known as an artist. And a godly woman. I'd like to be a cherished wife and mother, a jewel in my family's setting. I want to be trustworthy, self-controlled, discreet and honest. I want to be an excellent friend, one whose words are like "apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11), properly timed and seasoned with grace and love. I want my children to think of me as loving, gentle, adventurous and protective. I want Derek to think I rock all mics!

Then there are the expectations I have for my family. I have visions of us making incredible memories and doing great things together: cooking delicious meals together, scuba diving when the kids are older, travelling the world, going on family missions trips and playing musical instruments together. I see us hiking part of the Appalachian Trail, standing in front of the pyramids in Egypt, the Mayan ruins in Mexico, and camping at Yellowstone. But these things will never happen unless I take the first step. I cook with my kids almost daily and we've been upping our hiking mileage every time we go, but I haven't really started pursuing any of my other family goals. It's not even about going and signing up for a missions trip or booking a campsite at Yellowstone for 2011 (yes, you have to book them that far in advance). It's more about keeping our family goals always before me, in the front of my thoughts, alongside the mental grocery list and weekly schedule of events. I am learning that if I don't pursue these things on purpose, they will fall in at the back of the line behind small things that no one will remember when they are grown and gone.

Habakkuk 2:2 says "Write the vision, make it plain on tablets so that he who reads it may run with it." This verse inspires me to write my goals down, to pray over them, and to see them happen. After all, God made me the woman I am and He had the full knowledge of my driven personality - He knew these would be my goals and I believe He gave me the creativity and passion to dream them up. He knew I'd marry an incredibly zany and adventurous guy who grins from ear to ear when I start brainstorming about random road trips. This verse encourages me to run with my vision, not crawl or walk or trot, but run! All out sprinting toward those green pastures and still waters (see Psalms 23). 

I have expectations for my health, including a goal weight and a certain lifestyle of fitness and eating really well, expectations for my ridiculous, uncooperative hair - I'd like for it to look good every once in a while. I know Derek has plans for his career, and we both have plans for our education. These things can seem so untouchable when I lift my head out of the murk and flow of daily life and look at them there in the distance, so far off. But attacking them now, if only in prayer, is never a bad idea. I know God holds my life, my plans, my heart and it's most treasured desires in the palm of His hand. I am learning not just to trust Him, but to dream big! I am learning to step off that cliff of practical safety and take a little bit of risk, have a little more faith.

I have expectations for my house. I want to have a cheerful, quirky, elegant and artistic home, with peaceful lines and colors and bright splashes of color, with handmade items, timeless pieces of furniture and some funky modern ones too. I know furniture isn't the most important thing in life, it's really not very important at all. But as an artist who hopes to inspire others to a new idea or color or lifestyle choice, the palette and design of my home matters some. It is the place that I create, the place I retreat to for comfort, safety and freedom. It is the symbol of warmth and invitation for loved ones. For me, the way my home looks is the backdrop to my life.

As you can see,when it comes to great expectations, I have no shortage. In fact, as I start to brainstorm, more and more ideas come. I could sit down and write ideas out for every category in my life for hours. Dreaming comes second nature to me. And I've always thought it was a bit like window shopping. Why even look if you can't buy? But I've recently changed my mind. This window shopper thinks maybe God can handle all of my expectations and then some. Maybe there are some that will never come to pass. Some of them can't happen for a while, while maybe others can be worked in somehow. But I'm looking to the One who made the sky blue and the stars innumerable. The One who spoke all the layers of this world into being and then used His hands and breath to make me. I'm thinking of a Creator spinning webs of food chains, sea life, ecosystems and life cycles without any help. Fashioning dinosaurs. Inventing color. Building brains and dreaming up music.

And I'm starting to see how silly I've been in putting dreams aside. Ephesians 3:20 supports my sneaking hunch that I haven't yet begun to dream, "Now to Him is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine...."
Just the words "immeasurably more" give me a physical reaction. Chills all up and down my spine. Goosebumps of anticipation in realizing that I was meant to dream for all that this life could possibly hold. I am intended to be the best possible version of myself, to live life abundantly, created by God and crowned with His purpose. The possibilities are endless!

Maybe you've stopped dreaming. Maybe you're waiting until this current season of life has passed to pick up where you left off with your biggest hopes.
Maybe you should stop waiting. Maybe you should write down every far fetched and wildly delicious hankering you have and after quietly considering if there could be anything else you might have forgotten, wave that paper skyward with a ridiculously huge grin on your face.

Because I have a feeling we were meant to fully realize our greatest expectations.

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