I crawled out of bed early this morning. Not by choice, of course. My covers were warm, and after spending three nights on a rickety pull out couch in a hotel, I wanted to stay nestled on my cottony mattress forever.
Forever and ever.
But the seven year old had nightmares, and just as I drifted back to sleep the baby woke up demanding food, and it became apparent that more sleep was a luxury I would not be afforded.
So I made my way to the coffee pot, and now I sit here in front of my computer. It’s so quiet, and it’s still dark outside. It feels like the entire world is still. As much as I wanted a couple more hours of sleep, I must confess – this is my happy place.
This is the place where the Lord meets me – where He whispers peace in my always swirling heart.
This is the place when words wash over me, and sometimes they even flow out of me.
This is the place where I chase my goals – where I chip away at a dream just a little bit more.
There are a lot of stories out there of people who find success almost by accident. They were blogging for fun, or to get through a difficult time, and they were noticed and suddenly there was a book deal that they never asked for!
It seems like my Facebook feed has been filled with such stories lately, and they’re good stories. I like to read them. And yet…
There’s a part of me that wonders if maybe I’ve just wanted this too much. Maybe if I just quit wanting it so bad, then the publishing contracts would roll in. Because aren’t accidental success stories so fun to read?
“I didn’t want this. I wasn’t looking for it or pursuing it!” People say these things and I smile because I’m excited for them. But also, my heart cringes a little because I do want this. It’s why I’m working so hard.
This is why the quiet spaces are so important, because it’s here in the quiet when I’m reminded that the toil is a gift, and the wanting is okay.
“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:11-13
There is good to be found in the discipline of rising early to toil away at your goals and dreams. In the quiet dark, while the house is still, your hands move and your heart sings because this is your time. This is the gift.
Friends, the message is simply this: The time spent working and laboring, creeping your way toward a goal, is a good thing. You do not labor in vain, and the difficulty is a gift.
It’s okay to dream, and it’s okay to chase those dreams. Your story isn’t diminished by years of toil. Though it sounds romantic and poetic to somehow accidentally stumble into success, the truth is there is so much beauty in the toil.
Are you working toward a goal? Do you feel like you’re laboring in vain? I assure you, you’re not. It’s okay to want to see the fruition of your hard work. It’s okay to chase after your dream, whatever that may look like for you. It’s okay to want it.
It’s okay, because there’s goodness in the toil.
Your labor is a gift.
I watched her through the glass, her tiny, muscular body swinging and pushing through yet another bar routine. It’s not often that I have the opportunity to sit and just watch these days. Life is busy and the demands are high, so watching is a luxury.
But I really love to watch her in her element.
When Tia started gymnastics at age 3, we had no idea that she would develop into a competitive gymnast. All we wanted to do was channel her monkey energy into someplace safer than the top of our ten-foot basketball goal.
She’s nine now, and for six years Lee and I have been in constant conversation about her participation in this sport. Is this the right thing? Is it too much? Is it too hard on her body?
On more than one occasion, I’ve wondered if we should pull back. Maybe it would be better if she just did it for fun. Then I laugh.
My competitive daughter would not understand the meaning of doing something for fun. If you’re not there to win, what’s the point?
As I watched her yesterday, she made eye contact with me and I knew that something was bothering her. I could tell on her face so I mouthed, “What’s wrong?”
She pointed to her head. “I have a headache,” she said.
We looked at each other for a moment, and I was immediately ready to take her out and bring her home, because I understand headaches, and the thought of her practicing for three more hours with a pounding head made my mom-heart hurt.
As if reading my thoughts, she shook her head slightly. “I’m okay,” she said. Then she wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped back up on the bars.
I am constantly amazed at my daughter’s tenacity. She’s driven by an inner force that I admire, and as I watch, I’m learning. I’m becoming a student of my child. While I know and recognize her weaknesses, and I’m constantly working to help her overcome them, I also see her strengths.
I see her willingness to push through pain in order to become better. I see her dedication, and the way she works without complaining. I see her set goals, and then not let anything get in her way as she works to accomplish them.
My daughter is a dream chaser. She sees obstacles, and she doesn’t stop to wonder if it’s possible to reach her goal. She simply believes that she can. And if it’s hard, or maybe a little scary? Well, that’s all the more reason to try as far as she’s concerned.
Dream chasing is natural to kids. I don’t know what age the belief that dreams can come true begins to darken into the more realistic approach of adulthood, but I wonder at what my influence could possibly do to my kids’ willingness to chase their dreams. Am I giving them the confidence to keep chasing, or do I hold them back, forcing them to face reality?
Of course, reality must be faced at some point. I do NOT think that point is nine years old. If Tia wants to shoot for the Olympics right now, then she has my full support. If, at 16, she still thinks she can make it and it’s apparent that the Olympics aren’t in her future, I’ll work that out with her then.
I refuse to be a dream crusher, but I also don’t want to be a false encourager.
Because let’s face it – we’ve all seen American Idol, and we’ve wondered why someone didn’t have the guts to tell some of those kids that they couldn’t sing before they went on TV and made fools of themselves.
It’s a tricky business, navigating the waters of dream chasing with our kids. We want their success, and yet we also want to protect them from disappointment. And we must always make sure that we are not projecting our own dreams for our children onto them unfairly.
And so, as my daughter chases her dreams, and her brother’s each chase dreams of their own, I sit back and I watch. I admire their courage, and I applaud their hard work. Then I sit down and look at the goals I have written out for myself. The more realistic, grown up dreams of the present that are entirely possible with a little hard work and dedication.
Dream chasing, you see, isn’t just child’s play.
In light of this topic, I’m excited to announce that I’m joining the writing team over at God-Sized Dreams. It’s time to stop talking about what we want to do with our lives, and start doing something about it. So if you’re a dream chaser, or if you’re looking to rekindle the magic of an old dream you’d long since given up, please join me and the other ladies as we chase the dreams that are placed on our hearts.
“Are you excited?”
His voice reached through the phone pressed to my ear and I took a breath to give the expected response, then stopped. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes, and I felt the wind sort of escape in a small sigh.
“I don’t know,” I said, voice trembling slightly.
A month ago, I signed my first contract with a literary agent. For over a decade, I have been trying, without success, to secure a literary agent. It is a very big step toward my dream of publication – this is what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager.
I should be excited.
I am excited.
But I’ve lost momentum.
When I began blogging seven years ago, I had no idea where that journey would take me. Very early on I came across one of the Compassion Blogging trips, and as I read through those posts I felt a deep longing for my words to matter. As much as I loved chronicling the humorous moments of mom-life, I knew I wanted my site to become more.
I very prayerfully began chasing that heart desire, and in 2012, the Lord answered my prayer and I was invited to go to Tanzania with Compassion International. I didn’t know that trip would change everything.
It was the catalyst that led Lee and I to finally commit to adoption – an adoption that would be terminated.
I would walk through a year of grieving and heartache, and I couldn’t find my footing in the blogosphere anymore. I had accomplished my goal, and while writing has always been an outlet, at that point in time I found more solace in working on my novel, because blogging began to feel too painful. I was so very raw in those days, and I felt exposed online.
It’s been such a journey these last two and a half years. And now here I am, on the cusp of seeing another dream realized, and I find myself wildly overwhelmed.
If it weren’t for my husband, I think I would have given up a long time ago, because this process of doing what I love hasn’t been easy. Success, however you may measure it, hasn’t fallen in my lap. I’ve worked for it – I’ve worked really hard, and I have a stack of rejection letters to prove that what I do isn’t for the faint of heart.
Maybe I shouldn’t have kept the rejection letters. Maybe the folder full of “No” is a little bit of a downer, but it does make the “Yes” a little sweeter. And inside that folder full of “No” are little glimmers of hope. Editors who took the time to write me a personal note on their typical form letter response.
“Love the concept, and the writing is beautiful, but it’s not a good fit for us.”
“Keep working on this. You have the beginnings of something really special, but it’s not there yet.”
When I got those notes, I placed them on top of the stack of rejections to remind myself that I really can do this writing thing. Because the truth is, when you fight for something for so long, and you are constantly pushed backward, you start to question whether or not you’re cut out for this gig.
But now, there is someone else out there who believes in me. An agent who believes me capable of telling the stories I long to tell. I have a writing partner who, like my husband, has always been my cheerleader, and she’s right beside me in this new journey. She’s helping shape a message that the Lord placed on both of our hearts so many years ago.
I’m overwhelmed by it all. This is where the real work starts, and there’s a small part of me that is just scared. I’m afraid to get too excited. I’m intimidated by the need to gain blogging momentum again – to rebuild a platform in an already saturated market.
And that ever present nag that tells me I might not be good enough to pull this off likes to prick at my ears in the quiet moments when I’m most vulnerable.
Dream chasing is hard. It will always involve rejection. There are so many “No’s” that make up a “Yes.” And we’re all prone to look to our left and our right, and to see the people who are doing the things we want to do and assume that the success just fell in their laps. But 9 times out of 10, that’s not the case.
They worked hard for it, too.
If you’re chasing a dream right now, and you feel overwhelmed by it all, can I urge you not to give up? Don’t look at the “No’s” as a finality, but as the stacking point for the great big “Yes” waiting in the wings.
Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would, and maybe it will be more work than you assumed, but at the end of the day your dream matters, and the tenacity with which you’re willing to run after it will be the tipping point between excellence and mediocrity.
Let’s be excellent together.
This week, two friends offered me a bit of grace, a little encouragement, and just the kind of nudge I needed to push myself out of my creative funk. How did they do this?
Through a simple text, and a ten minute phone call.
There is no way to really stress the importance of having a few people who “get” you. You need people who will come alongside when you’re feeling discouraged, when you want to give up, when you just feel like it’s never going to happen, and who will remind you why you keep pursuing your dreams.
Jeff Goins calls these people your tribe.
Tribes are how we live our lives. We are constantly banding together with other people to discuss ideas and share information.
Your church is a tribe. Your job is another tribe. Your group of friends is another. You have a tribe. The question is: Do you know it?
Let’s ditch the jargon and just speak in plain English for a second. A tribe isn’t a fan club or mega, super platform; it’s just a group of people who care about something. And we all belong to a few of those, don’t we?”
The benefit to having a tribe, a group of people who will surround you in pursuit of making one another better, is that you’re never really alone. But you must be transparent and let people in. You have to share your dreams, to be open about the things that inspire you toward passionate living, in order for people to walk alongside and help you navigate the path.
For a long time, I was embarrassed to admit that I was writing a novel. I shared the information only with people I knew intimately. My reasons for doing this were not noble or humble. They were riddled in fear.
I was afraid that if I failed, if I never finished the book, or it ended up being terrible, that I would never be able to survive the humiliation. So I shied away from discussing my writing.
I quickly realized, however, that a secret passion is terribly difficult to chase down. Without the benefit of having encouragers by my side, I had no real motivation to press forward with the project. I could see it beginning to die.
So I told a few people, then a few more. Then I shared a few snippets of the book with my readers, and an amazing thing happened.
My confidence grew exponentially, as did the people who were cheering me on. This gave me the momentum I needed to push forward until I could finally type the words, The End.
I couldn’t have done it without my tribe of people cheering me on. And now? Now I’m in the throes of seeking publication. It is a discouraging process, filled with rejection, all of which can leave a writer feeling less than confident.
Just when I began to wonder if maybe I’d made a terrible mistake in trying to publish this story – maybe it wasn’t written as well as I hoped – I received a text from a friend encouraging me not to give up, and offering a prayer for the days when I feel overcome with doubt.
Two days later, a conversation with a mentor and friend who believes in me, and who has been a champion of encouragement to me throughout this writing process, told me he believed in me, and he believed in my book. His gracious words melted the fears and doubts that had crept in over the last few weeks.
Do you see the importance of surrounding yourself with encouragers?
If you have a dream, a goal that you’re working toward, have you shared that? Have you entrusted your pursuit with someone (or multiple someones) who will spur you on toward the accomplishment of that dream? If not, can I ask why?
Don’t be afraid of your dreams, and certainly don’t keep them to yourself, even if they seem lofty, impossible, or ambitious. With the power of a team (a tribe) backing you up, you will find that in the moments you want to give up completely, someone will be there to dust you off, turn you around, and keep pushing you forward.
All the way to The End.
Wherever we are, there is always something of beauty that bursts and begs notice – landmarks on our expedition of redemptive return.” Mo Leverett
There is a unique joy in watching someone living in passionate pursuit of life, fully embracing the joys and trials that come with traversing this earth. Beauty takes on so many different forms based on the intricacies of each personality, each gift and talent dispersed, developed, and shared with the world.
Art is not only a painting. It isn’t confined to the space of a page or a canvas. It’s not always wrapped in a stanza, or a lyric, or a ringing dissonant chord.
Art is found everywhere, in all of life. It’s a sunset, a crying baby, the mother humming gently into tender ears. It’s in the sweat of a laborer, fighting for his daily bread. It’s in the dusty feet of the mother who walks miles for water, the father who combs the fields for food.
Art is life. Breathing, circulating, moving in tendrils, in swirls throughout the ebb and flow of daily living. Art is alive and tangible, though you cannot always see it or touch it. You feel it, and you know it, and you recognize it when you’re in its presence.
Mo Leverett is a man who sees the art in life.
He’s a musician “striving for poetic beauty and force, for authenticity and passion.” An artist who sways toward the folk and blues genre continuum, Mo seeks to embrace lament as an ordinary part of life, and his music reflects this. In his words, “The thread of compassion is woven through, born of living most of my life among the poor or being materially poor myself these last years.”
Currently, Mo is busy putting together his 12th album. Life, redemption, poverty, family, love, grace, suffering and justice are themes that commonly appear in many of Mo’s original songs, and his current album, These are the Days, continues to draw inspiration from his life in urban ministry, the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, divorce, personal hardship, recovery, healing and remarriage.
I could keep talking about the album, but I think it would be best for you to hear from someone who knows him well. His producer, Scotty Alderman, shared these thoughts:
Mo is an original – part prophet, part preacher, part troubadour. His gruff voice is powerful and full of soul, while his lyrics paint vivid pictures and evoke strong emotions from the listener. Always affective and potent, Mo can say very hard things in tender ways, and tender things in easliy relatable ways.
Mo writes about pain, loss, injustice, love, and gratitude from a very deep place. His hard-won, hard-earned wisdom is matched with a voice suited to express it. Mo’s music is distinctly American, rugged and pioneering, more specifically steeped in the South, in the soulfulness of Louisiana. Mo’s lyrics are genuine, sincere, ernest, vulnerable, and laced with poetic prose. I think everyone should have the opportunity to hear him – he’s that sort of singer-songwriter. Mo could be one of the greats – I actually believe he already is.”
Dream chasing is rarely achieved on your own. All of us need a team to back us up, to support us as we push toward the actualization of our dreams. Dream chasing requires courage, confidence, and sometimes the asking for a little help.
If you are interested in hearing more music from Mo Leverett’s upcoming album, would you consider visiting his Kickstarter page and offering a pledge to help cover the costs of the album? Every dollar helps, and your pledge will be greatly and deeply appreciated. He is currently only $2,700 dollars shy of his goal with 9 days to go.
This is a small gap to fill!
For more insight into Mo’s heart, and to gain a better understanding of his skill as a writer, I urge you to read his post, The Joy of One Thing. It’s an honor to be a part of Mo’s journey as he strives to create art that is an honest depiction of the life he’s lived and seen. In his words: “The greatest joy that I receive from doing records is the opportunity to play with serious musicians and for them to enter the inspiration sector in one of my little songs. But I am also genuinely encouraged that my music is in any way a source of help and comfort to others.”