Last week our five year old, Avery, fell into Stow Lake at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I was blessed enough to not have personally witnessed his fall. Instead, I heard his cry from across the lake, down a hill and echoing off the walls of the women’s restroom. Two years ago I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about hearing him cry from a football field away, but we’re maturing as a family and so at present, his loud cry was out of the ordinary. I knew right away that it was an upset and embarrassed cry but not an “I’m hurt” cry. Which reminds me of when I had our first kid and read that book (the baby whisperer??) and I distinctly remember thinking that the woman who said you could tell the difference between each of the unique cries of babies had literally written that book only to illustrate what a terrible mom I was and always would be because there was no way on earth that I would ever be able to tell the difference. . . yet look at me now, almost 12 yrs later, able to tell the difference from a distance that would impress superman . . .
But I’m getting off track. Back to Avery’s unanticipated swim in the lake.
The kids and my husband Marty were checking out the boats at the dock when Avery decided to jump from the wooden walkway across to the sidewalk on land. He missed. Missed the edge and fell into what can only be described as water that no living thing was supposed to ever enter: a disgusting, green, murky, bird feces and fish spit filled pond. Marty heard the splash and turned around to see one kiddo missing. I can only imagine how his heart must have stopped in that moment. Shortly after Avery popped back up from the green sludge and Marty drug him out. By the time I made it up the hill he was already being stripped of his gross clothes and shoes. I could only laugh but the look on Marty’s face stopped me, for at least a few minutes. After a few more tears, lots of laughing and a trip to target we were good as new. Plus, we had a new favorite memory for our vacation.
How many kids have tried and successfully jumped that corner? Probably too many to count. But Avery jumped too soon. The gap was too far. It was obvious to even his eight-year-old brother that he wouldn’t make it, but he jumped because the thought of missing the other side never occurred to him.
Of course, as his mom, I don’t want to see him fall into another lake, but I admire that childish spirit of optimism and I hope he’ll hang on to some of it. Of seeing only where you want to go and not all the obstacles in between you and your goal. Because sometimes it IS just enough to get you there.
Have you ever noticed how as adults we don’t talk about goals anymore? We still have them, right? Why is it so rare that we ask or voice them anymore? Are we supposed to stop feeling the desire to accomplish something after we graduate from college and get a job? Or after we get married and have kids? As if whatever we accomplished by our mid 20s or 30s is all there ever was to achieve and now it’s just time to start living for the goals your children can achieve. Or is it that the desire is still there, but we simply stop sharing our goals or asking others about theirs because it feels too intimate, too vulnerable- because we are afraid of whispering out loud something that won’t come true? Afraid of judgement? Afraid of failing? Afraid of actually having to do something?
I think those desires are still there. It’s there for me, perhaps even louder and bigger and scarier than it’s ever been. I want to write. Not just once every few weeks, but every day. And this is big: I want to write words that are read. Not words just written and stored on my computer for me to look back at. Words that are strung together into an entire book. Words that reach people. Words that encourage. Words that point people toward god and Jesus. Words that make people FEEL something and want to do something with those feelings.
So there, I went first. Now it’s your turn. What’s your goal? What’s your dream?
Speak it out loud, even if it’s just for you.
It’s been said that a goal without a plan is just a dream. So let’s get down to brass tacks. You’ve breathed your goal out loud, now breathe some life into it.
Obstacles are what we see when we take the focus off of our goals – Henry Ford. A plan is a way to focus on your goal. I am so often focused on the obstacles in front of me that I lose sight of the goal:
- My kids and my husband need me to be a present presence.
- My followers/reach/subscribers are in the single digits.
- I don’t have an agent. I don’t know how to write a book proposal. I’ve never written more than a few pages at a time, how will I write an entire book?
- I’ve got graduate school to juggle now too.
- I should spend more time on that project I’m working on for our church.
- I have a hard time disappointing people who ask me for help, whether it’s teaching, leading something or helping out somewhere.
- Eating is crucial for life. So is sleep. Taking showers are important if I want people to talk to me.
You get it. You’ve got your own list of obstacles. Some of these things aren’t important or real but some truly are. And if I don’t address them, then the gap between my goal and me will be something I can’t just close my eyes and jump across. I’ll end up just like Avery, covered in green, smelly water and crying my “embarrassed” cry.
So this is where I’m starting and I’m sharing it with you so that we can do it together. These principles worked for me whether I was in corporate world, children’s or women’s ministry or I was just trying to manage our household, our kids and our finances together with my husband :
- BE INTENTIONAL. Right now, I’ve got more disposable time on my hands than I’ve had in years, but if I don’t plan my days and my weeks it just slips through my fingers. Gobbled up by things that take my time but leave me no closer to my goal. Planning means looking ahead, saying no to things that don’t fit, being clear on where you need to work and focus. This is the principle I struggle with the most. In Luke 14, Jesus talked of the cost of following him in terms that anyone who wants to accomplish anything would understand: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
- BREAK IT DOWN. Break it down into smaller pieces. Then celebrate the little wins. I’m sure my husband would prefer that I didn’t announce with big fanfare each and every single time I turn in a grad school assignment or every time I sit down and write a paragraph, but he bears with me as my little cheering squad and knows that it’s just my need to celebrate the small steps. Maybe your small steps are getting up to exercise twice a week or choosing at least one clean meal a day. Whatever they are, figure it out and celebrate them progress.
- SEEK KNOWLEDGE. Be open to changing course. Learning is good. Knowledge is even better. Be a life-long learner who applies what they’re discovering to achieve those dreams and goals in a better way. Read. Listen to podcasts. Talk with wise friends. Pray. Listen for God’s voice:
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16: 1-3
4. BE VULNERABLE. Share your goal. You’ve already said it out loud to yourself. That’s the scariest part. Tell someone else you trust. Let them in on your plan. Give that someone permission to hold you accountable.
Let’s dream big dreams. And make big plans. And work together to close the gap between where we stand on the dock and the land. And let’s be brave enough to take the final leap when the time comes, with the thought of missing never occurring, because we’ve made sure it won’t.