Follow your dreams or your mission?

By Erika Rizkallah

Follow your dreams.

In our individualistic culture we’re bombarded with the idea. All forms of media fill our heads with bucket lists and the notoriety of easy celebrity.

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I admit I’ve been fascinated with following my dreams since I was a kid. I was convinced I could be so many things: a model, a marine biologist an Egyptologist . . .

It didn’t matter I was too short and plain for modeling, or that I was afraid of fish and  hated sand. Those careers appealed to me. Then the reality that I lacked certain skills became obvious and I settled for the unglamorous job of working in human resources.

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Until recently I pursued some other dreams but chronic illness, aging and parenting issues edged them out, making them seem frivolous. I struggle with that – after all, aren’t we supposed to follow our dreams?

I wonder if it’s a modern construct. If it’s part of Paul’s warning about the last days, People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . . 3 Timothy 1-5

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So I looked to the Bible for wisdom. I found nothing about following dreams. I looked to Jesus’ life and wondered about his dreams. Was he content with his carpentry career?  Did he talk to his buddies about it?

Then it hit me. We were his dream of the future.

He focused ceaselessly on God’s purpose, not veering from his mission. Mark 1:21-39 offers a clue. He taught with authority in the Capernaum synagogue and dramatically drove a demon out of a man. Later he went to Peter’s house and found his mother-in-law suffering with a high fever. Jesus healed her and that evening the people brought him all the sick and demon-possessed. The Bible says, the whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many and drove out many demons.

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Early the next morning he left the house and went to pray in a solitary place. Peter and his friends found him saying, “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. 

He was so focused on his mission that he left the comfort of Peter’s home and the certainty of local celebrity to spread God’s good news to others in the region.

We benefit as a result of his obedience and in turn, his dreams for us (and himself) came true. It seems to me that when we follow God’s purpose for our lives, somehow they intersect.

What about you? Do you find God’s purpose and your dreams are in sync? Please share and tell us how!

 

The one word standing between you and your dreams.

By Erika Rizkallah

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:4-6

Years ago when I was thinking about my life plans and goals, this verse shone like the noonday sun on my dreams. After all, who doesn’t want God to give us the desires of our heart?

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Certainly not me, I want it all! I want the full life Jesus wants for me and I must say He’s done it. He has given me the desires I desired and even ones I didn’t know about. But first I noticed three things were required of me:

Delight – To delight means to take great pleasure in him. I first needed to get to a place of joy in him, to take great pleasure in his presence and in his word. I achieved that by devoting my life and spending quiet time with him each and every day.

Commit – Next, I determined to commit my way to him. This means I decided to make his cause my cause. I needed to obey his requirements and plan for my life – not choosing my own path, but seeking to know his will for me in Christ.

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Trust – Trusting in someone we can’t see is difficult but our God is the living God. When we spend time in his word and prayer and then follow Christ’s lead, he hears and makes himself known to us. We obey and see him working everywhere. Trust then follows.

When I was in second grade my teacher introduced me to other worlds and cultures through studying two countries: Japan and Ghana. I loved my lessons and decided to be a world traveler so I could see places with my own eyes. Pippi Longstocking was my adventure hero and I wanted to be just like her.

The answer to my 7-year-old heart’s desire came much later, but now I do travel the world. I want to share my experiences with you through my writing. I want you to know that God is waiting for you to delight, commit and trust in him.

Sometimes there’s only one word standing between you and your dreams. That one word is . . .

YES!

Your turn: What desires are hiding in your heart? Do you believe he wants them for you as much as you do?

 

Every day is a blessing from God

By Erika Rizkallah

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” Prince

2015 was a hard year for me – filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I can’t remember how it began but it’s fresh enough to remember how it ended.

November and December was like a slow moving hurricane whirling off the coast toward a direct hit on my home.

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Last year my husband and I decided it was time to renovate our highly outdated home. We’ve been wanting to remodel certain areas; get rid of the mirrored backsplash in the kitchen, replace broken appliances and get rid of the gold fixtures in the guest bathroom.

But you know how those things go. Once you decide to change certain  areas, you may as well go big and do it right. So what started out as a simple kitchen/bathroom remodel turned into a full scale renovation of our middle and upper levels.

There were many disagreements between us along the way. Multiple meetings with the contractor and interior designer that came with the job. And packing up EVERYTHING. This was no easy feat for a homebody homeschooling mom like me, but I did it (for the most part). In order to give the contractor a good start we decided to take a trip so we left the country for two weeks and spent time visiting family in Dubai.

And we came back from this life-changing vacation to this . . .

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Goodbye kitchen

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My favorite room in the house – our heritage room

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Just like a man …the tv still remains

So that’s where I’ve “been” – metaphorically and physically speaking – and I have so many new things to share with you in 2016.

I’ve resolved that this year will be different – I’m saying goodbye to the physical, mental and emotional challenges of last year. And even though I’m living in a literal mess, I agree with Prince’s assessment that each day is a blessing from God and yeah, everything is beautiful.

5 Tips for Conquering Procrastination (aka Resistance)

By Erika Rizkallah

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5 tips for conquering procrastination

Yesterday I was talking with a shrink (that’s what he calls himself) about procrastination. I was listening in on an open conversation he was having with a family member and as soon as he said the word my ears pricked up. I struggle with procrastination and he told us it’s really a symptom of anxiety.

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He said if it were laziness we would be fully lazy – we wouldn’t do anything at all. But if it’s procrastination it’s a matter of choosing to do something other than the thing we’re avoiding. I think there’s some truth to that and it got me thinking about  Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.

It’s a great book for people of a creative nature. He talks about resistance being an impersonal but powerful force that immediately appears as soon as we delve into the creative.

While it’s secular in nature, it speaks to me and I turn to it as as way to shake the grip of procrastination from my spirit. Here are 5 of my tips to help you conquer this inevitability.

Tip #1 – Be prepared: There are always things in life that will make us anxious. Whether it’s a task, conversation or event, rest assured, resistance will come. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is a good time to run the “what if” scenarios through our minds. We can ask things like, What if my computer crashes? or What if the boss doesn’t like my presentation? By thinking through things that could thwart our efforts, we’re preparing ourselves for success.

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           Think through problems

Tip # 2 – Pray for God’s strength: We’re simply human beings, only flesh and bone. We are inherently weak, but when we ask God for strength to persevere, we’re accessing his power. He’s generous and he loves to give us gifts.

Tip # 3 – Face the obstacle head on: Yes, there may be resistance but we don’t help ourselves by avoiding it, we just delay the inevitable. Or worse, live with regret.

Face obstacles head on!

Face obstacles head on!

Tip # 4 – Get an accountability partner: Grab a friend and ask for help. Ask her to help you stay on top of the issue by calling, e-mailing or standing with you as you reach for your goal.

Tip # 5 Stand firm: At the end of procrastination is a gift waiting to be opened. In his struggle to preach the gospel, the apostle Paul suffered beatings, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and more. It’s likely we won’t suffer physically, but if we do, we’re in great company.

Your Turn: Can you share tips for conquering procrastination? What tip will you use from my list? 

Bloom: living and thriving in God’s great garden

Pressure. We all feel it at one time or another. It’s the feeling of being squeezed, suffocated and ultimately stagnating.

Stagnating is a fancy word for being stuck.

I almost wrote that I’m not sure why I’ve felt this way lately but that’s a lie. As women we can inadvertently become potbound. Being potbound looks like this . . .

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I hate when I see this in one of my plants because it means that as the gardener, I’m not paying attention. I’m not giving this girl room to grow (all my plants are girls).

If I’d taken better care of her she wouldn’t be in this mess, so now I have to tease her roots a little – I call it tickling. Then I have to move her into a different pot.

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When I do this she will thrive and bloom.

It’s important to note that as a human, I’m a flawed gardener. But God is never flawed. He never forgets to water, prune and tickle the roots of his precious children. Sometimes he keeps us in one season as preparation for another.

Now I realize that God’s been doing this for me. After living potbound for a season he’s moving me into a new place where I’ll blossom, bloom and flower – and ultimately produce fruit for his kingdom.

Oh how I love spring and the changes it brings!

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Your turn: Do you recognize the season God has you in? Are you potbound, growing or blooming?

“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my father.” Jesus (John 15:7-8)

Still Dreaming? This book will move you!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney

When I mentioned my struggle about dreams to my close friend Terri she instantly shot back, “What about your guy? That author who wrote that dream book you love so much.” Her reminder was a gift from God.

When I said, “This book will move you!” I meant it. It inspired me to pursue my dream of moving from my hometown in the Washington DC area to the beaches of North Carolina. The book is Wide Awake by Erwin Raphael McManus.

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I didn’t hesitate. I pulled it off my bookshelf and began reading immediately (again).

When I grow up I want to write like Erwin.

My take on the premise of the book is that God works his purpose in and through all of us, but we have to live wide awake – we have to dig deep to discover the potential lying within. One of my favorite chapters is about staying focused on the dream.

He writes, “If you don’t lock into the life God has called you to live, you will find yourself pulled and torn by everyone else’s desire and expectation for your life. . . If you do not develop the ability to say no to many important things, you’re going to lose the big yes of your life.”

Ain’t that the truth! This is where I have trouble – being pulled in different directions by others.

But here’s the amazing part. Midway through the book, God opened the door of opportunity to pursue one of my life’s dreams. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for 25 years but was starting to think it would never happen.

You know what? I took the opportunity. I’m in. I know it’s going to take loads of energy and faith to see it through, but I’m grateful for the chance to try.

God, if you read my blog, thank you for giving me a YES after all this time.

And of course, I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking to live wide awake too!

Your Turn: Do you have a delayed dream you’re praying about?

 

 

 

Dreams in the making …

Lately, I’ve been thinking about dreams. Not the kind of dreams we have when we go to sleep at night, but the kind of dreams residing in our hearts. Do you know what I mean? Those dreams that float in your mind like clouds and frustrate you because they seem out of reach?

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The ones that won’t go away, despite your attempts to bring yourself back to earth?

It’s on my mind because somehow – in the glorious mess of life – I think I lost mine. Or maybe I’ve done such a great job at pushing them away, that they just tease me like a playground bully.

So much of our modern culture is centered on dream chasing.

Motivational coaches shout encouragement from pimped out platforms. The other day I heard a commercial for Joel Osteen’s new radio channel. In his spooky whispery voice he said, “If you want to see a miracle, be a miracle.”

Huh?

Bruce AlmightyActually, that quote as also been attributed to Morgan Freeman in the movie Bruce Almighty and some random English teacher named Steve Juster. But still. What does it mean?

Or how about this one, “You need to associate with people that inspire you, people that challenge you to rise higher, people that make you better. Don’t waste your valuable time with people that are not adding to your growth. Your destiny is too important.” Joel Osteen

As a Christian, am I really supposed to be about making all my dreams come true? Or am I to glorify God through my relationship with Jesus? Is it my “fame” I’m seeking or His?

But then I wonder . . . what if these dreams aren’t solely mine. What if they’re God’s dreams for my life and it’s not a playground bully teasing me, but Him wooing me?

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 37:4 which says: Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

God’s given me the desires of my heart over and over again – can I really ask for more? How do we tell the difference between the desires of our hearts (the ones he wants to give us) and the dreams of our own making?

Your turn: What’s your take on this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!