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5 lessons I learned while pursuing my dreams

I learned so many lessons about myself in the process of following my dreams.

I’m a restless soul. That much is true. Which means, this stay-at-home-mother-of-four thing sometimes makes me want to run straight to the funny farm. (Oh, wait…I already live there!) I spend much of my day preparing, shopping, folding, tending, tutoring, driving, chopping, playing referee — you get the idea. Mundane activities abound. So I never quite know what to say when someone asks me the very typical,“Nice to meet you. What do YOU do?”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the question. It’s just that I’m not always super comfortable with the answer. I often flounder a little when crafting my response. I figure I can respond one of two ways.

Either, A. I can fly straight under the radar and mumble something like,
“I don’t actually work ‘outside the home,’ I’m something of a professional volunteer. LOL.”

Or, B. I can jump off the ledge and give them the other, more heart-beating-out-of-my-chest kind of answer, one that includes a bit of the former response with one slight addition,

“I’m…uh…a writer.”

“A writer? Cool! What do you write?”  
(All of a sudden the conversation gets more interesting.
Like somehow I live a fantastically romantic life.)

Gulp. Once I admit I blog about life and faith (admittedly not always the most glamorous answer they’d hoped to hear), but I also wrote a book, the investigative floodgates swing wide open. Truth be told, the book thing is really the manifestation of a God-given dream. One that Jesus started writing on my heart the moment we brought our two youngest kids home from Ethiopia four years ago.

Writing a book was an entirely vulnerable endeavor.

Releasing my intimate, heart-felt words about the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful about life, faith and family to the scrutiny of editors and friends felt like perpetually living in a going-to-school-naked-dream. But, oh did I learn so many lessons along the way — about myself and the process of following my dreams. Here are just a few:

Sometimes it seems God just snaps His fingers and everything falls into place, but more often than not, He gives us creative license and responsibility to follow through on the passions he wove deep in our DNA.

1. Pursuing my own dream, helped me learn how to uncover and encourage my kids in their dreams.

Most of my hours are spent loving, raising, hugging, nurturing and, honestly, losing my cool with my four sweet cherubs. Even though motherhood is my full-time gig, embracing motherhood has been kind of a rocky journey for me. It turns out, taking the time to pursue a dream of mine helped me feel more like “me.” When I carve out moments in my day or week to bleed words or emotions onto the page, I actually transform into a more complete version of myself. Following my passion (which is to say that thing that makes my heart race and fills my mind like no other) prompts me to cheer my kids on in their passions because I know what it feels like to love and live my own.

2. If I want something badly enough, it’s quite possible that I’m the one that needs to make it happen.

Don’t get me wrong — I whole-heartedly believe in the “anointed call of God.” Sometimes it seems God just snaps His fingers and everything falls into place, but more often than not, He gives us creative license and responsibility to follow through on the passions he wove deep in our DNA. My writing grew out of a profound desire to share the testimony of God’s goodness with a greater audience. No one flat “asked me” to write my book. It was, quite simply, an obedient response to the whisper of God. The first bold move was actually taking a step in that direction whether or not it made any logical sense. I knew God was asking me to trust Him on this one. By faith, I typed one word after another after another…

3. Vulnerability is a necessary “evil.”

Writing a book about your own story (warts and all) is a super vulnerable undertaking. When you ask others to critique and examine your writing (which is, by all accounts, an extension of your heart) it feels risky. In this book, I laid my heart on the table for people to do with it what they will. Some will hold and cherish it while others may stomp on it. I have no control over other people’s reactions, so I’ve had to look to God as the ultimate definer of my primary identity — which is to say, I am His child, telling His story. Baring my soul for all to see is a little frightening, but it makes for (hopefully!) some much better writing. Let the chips fall where they may. It is, after all, for His glory.

4. I really do need to practice what I preach.

It’s one thing to TELL my kids they can do anything they set their mind to and a whole other thing to SHOW them. At the ripe old age of forty and change, I’m actually showing them…

5. Never underestimate the power of a champion.

Though I hate to admit it, I think Better Midler was right! Having someone who is the “wind beneath your wings” is a vital part of taking a risk and actually seeing something through. The idea of writing a book scared the ever living daylights out of me, but my AMAZING husband and supportive kids backed me 110%. Their encouragement and interest kept me moving forward even when I wanted to throw in the towel and just sign up for another committee. I only pray I can be this kind of champion for them and anyone else God brings my way.

What dreams may come, I only pray I live to dream another day. For it is precisely in the dreaming that I find myself fully awake.

Written by

Megan Nilsen is the mother of four children — two biological, two adopted, and by all accounts the most beautiful kids in the world (at least according to their unbiased mother). She is married to her college sweetheart. They have served on Young Life staff for the entire 20 years of their married life. Megan passionately pursues writing as a way to process God’s ever-active work in the world. Last summer, she released her book, "A Beautiful Exchange: Responding to God's Invitation for More," available online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can find her blogging about life and faith and all the rest with two of her dearest friends at www.writinginpencil.com.

Latest comment
  • I see myself in this amazing read. Just another kick in the right direction to follow my dreams. Thanks megan.

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