#dreamjob

In my last post, you may have heard me describe my time owning Flourish as my dreams realized. Being a boutique owner was in fact my dream job.  Ever since I was a little girl, I had this unwavering love for art, beauty, and fashion.  I spent solid days playing barbies with my cousins, lovingly changing out each doll’s outfits over and over.  I published my own magazine at the age of 10, with dedicated “fashion editorials”.  In high school and art, I pursued my artistic side and eventually declared an art major with a focus in fibers (which is as close to a fashion degree Saint Mary’s College offered).  I went on to work in another local boutique, where I finally determined that being a boutique owner was my calling: I was enthralled with the mix of fashion, business, and working with people.  It was a perfect myriad of all my skills and passions.  And from there, I spent the next years of my life dreaming and longing for the day that I could open my own store.  That’s when I began calling owning my own boutique, my #dreamjob.

You are most likely familiar with that term, “dream job”.  And even more likely you are familiar with their ever present friends; “dream guy”, “dream house”, “dream body”, “dream vacation” and so on.  These terms are upheld in our culture and even daily conversations with a silent common understanding: everyone should have a clear picture or blueprint of their dream _____  and go after it with reckless abandon until at long last you have achieved and conquered it.  Those of us who are lucky enough to have staked claim to our dream ______(you fill in the blank) are esteemed by others.  We uphold, pin , and aspire to phrases like “She believed she could, so she did” or “dream big” and so on.  Undoubtedly, many of you reading this looked at me and my work at Flourish and thought something like, “there’s someone who went after her dreams”…. And, over the years, many people came to me and shared how inspired they were by my pursuit of my dream career.

I, myself, put so much stock in achievement and pursuit of my “dream job.”   Once I opened the doors to my “dream boutique” though, I raised the bar on that definition.  It had to be bigger, better, more well known, and more successful.  If we had 10,000 fans on Facebook, let’s set out sights on 100,000 fans.  If we had a 1,600 square foot store let’s go for a 3,600 square foot store.  My “dream job” became a proverbial carrot out in front of me…always one step ahead, beckoning me on to try for more success.  Along the way, I married my “dream guy” and bought my “dream house”.  In all honestly, I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years, going after all my “dreams”.

Now let me pause for a moment and pre-empt your concern: there is nothing wrong with espousing to excellence.  And, in fact, I think it is a high calling to look for beauty and excellence in everything and then work to improve the world around you.  Further, I want to clarify that goals are important.  Goals like, “I want to find a worthy career” or “I want to marry a man of character” are critical to your well being and your ability to function both in this world and to become a contributing member of God’s kingdom.  That being said, I think there is a real and present danger in the the common place terms “dream job”, “dream house”, “dream guy” and so on.

The word dream attached to all these important parts of our lives is what is dangerous.  A dream is “other wordly”. It’s ethereal and allusive.  A dream is a creation inside your mind that does not necessarily exist.  So when we are young and formative and we start to affix the word dream in front of our future spouse, job, home, car, body, or vacation, we open ourselves up to danger.  These dangers include the pressure of achieving unrealistic expectations, the disappointment that failure to do so creates, and most importantly an isolation from God’s plans for our lives.

Having unrealistic expectations for a dream guy, dream house, dream job, etc is detrimental.  It creates an environment of pressure to perform.  For me, my drive to achieve my “dream job” in becoming a boutique owner accelerated my steps and actions.  Before I opened Flourish, my wise dad said to me, “I think you could do anything you set your mind to and specifically I think you would be a great boutique owner.  However, I think there is wisdom in waiting a while so that you can have a family, and then start when your kids are older and in school.”  However, the ever present concept “dream job” was floating around inside my mind, creating an unhealthy urgency in my decisions.  I felt that I would not be “complete” or “satisfied” until I started my store.  My dad’s wisdom fell on deaf ears, because I didn’t have the patience to let my story unfold in God’s timing and instead I was obsessed with achieving my dreams as fast as I could.  In fact, you could even say, “I believed I could, so I did”.  But as I found, once I started…the term dream job or in my case “dream store” alluded me.  The actual opening of my store didn’t quench my thirst.  I would find myself thinking, “If we just carried this line, the store would be perfect.  Or, if we were featured in a major magazine then we really would have arrived.  Or, if I redid the displays tonight even if it takes all night then the store would be perfect.”  I was never satisfied or filled up.  The pressure to achieve that dream was self inflicted but it was a contest I couldn’t ever win.

When those same unrealistic expectations are applied to your “dream guy”, the stakes are even higher.  When we predetermine that our dream guy makes a certain amount of money, looks a certain way, lives in a certain city, wants the same amount of kids, etc: we apply these etherial and unrealistic mixture of qualities to our potential mates.  If you’re lucky enough to find someone who measures up, what happens though once the honeymoon phase wears off, and a character trait is revealed that isn’t part of your “dream guy’s” resume? Or worse, what happens if something happens that changes him?  What happens when he gets in an accident and his dream face is altered?  How do you react then when he loses his job, and his dream salary isn’t coming in?  Does he still fit the mould of your dream husband when he sits broken on your couch crying, or if he gains weight, loses his hair, or falls short in some other area?  This same line of thinking can be applied to the other allusive milestones too.  What happens when you can’t actually afford that “dream house”?  Well, for many of us it means we buy it anyway and go into debt.  What happens when we can’t find that dream job?  Perhaps, we take the next best position, but sulk and resent our boss every waking minute.

Disappointment is that next danger.  When the dreams give way to reality or if we never even find that dream job/guy/house, we are left in the wake of disappointment.  That may look different for various people.  Some may feel like nothing is ever good enough and they keep working harder and harder to be good enough, some may give up and harbor resentment, and some may decide to keep looking and keep searching for their ideal dream.  It makes sense that all around me I see Millenials either not getting married at all (no one measures up right?), choosing divorce (dream guy was not as advertised),  job jumping (this current job is not my dream job and definitely does not have my dream salary), or working out to the point of obsession (dream body from Pinterest is only a few planks away).

But, more dangerous than all the above is the consequent isolation from God that many of us experience because of the emphasis on our dream plans.   While we are busy dreaming, plotting, and pursuing our perfect ideals, we miss out on what God has for us.  God designed us to prosper and flourish, but I don’t think he defines that prosperity as we so often do.  The bible says,

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15)

When we become single minded in pursuing specific dreams, we don’t leave room for the plans God has for us.  My favorite passage (Jeremiah 29:11) also says;

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord”

Note that it does not say, “For you know the plans you have for yourself”.  And yet, this is how I was living my life.  Before Pinterest even existed, I had imaginary wish list boards in my heart all filled up with my ideas for my dream store, my dream house, my dream kids and so on.   None of that has panned out as I had planned.  Not one darn thing.  My dream store that I worked so hard to build, is at this very moment, being unassembled and piece by piece sold off.  And, my dream house is about to be put on the market too: it’s too much house and too much debt for us and I’m ready for a change across the board.  My dream husband, who I absolutely adore, is an imperfect person. Sometimes he hurts my feelings and (insert gasp) we argue to the point of tears at times. My dream kids (who again I adore) get sick, don’t want to wear the clothes I try to dress them in, throw tantrums in front of other people, and I quickly learned have their own ideas and don’t like to conform to “dream plans”.  My dream body….don’t even get me started there, lol.

One by one, I have laid down every dream.  But here’s the thing.  I have never been happier.  I didn’t lay down my dreams out of defeat… I laid them down for His plans instead of my own.  Maybe it’s being almost 35 and getting a little life experience under my belt, but I began to realize that all these dream ideals were exhausting me.  I didn’t measure up across the board.  And, I never really achieved any of them.  From the outside looking in, it may looked like I did.  But, behind the scenes I was struggling to keep it all going.  I bought my dream house but then was too busy to decorate it or have anyone over.  I had my dream job but at the expense of enjoying life with my family.  And so on.  I began to realize that if God knows the plans he has for me, maybe I should look to Him instead of myself.  And, as I have started to defer to His will instead of my own, I have found so much joy and so much freedom.

Go through your list.  Cross out the word dream, and insert the word “God’s”.  I want “God’s house for me”, “God’s husband for me”, “God’s career for me”, “God’s healthy body for me”.  And then just watch the pressure and strife melt away.  Remember, God wants good for us, so you don’t need to be afraid either.  In time and as you shift your pursuit from running after ideals to running after His will, he will reveal all his plans for you in the right way and in the right time.  Trust in Him, and worry more about what you can do for His kingdom, and how you can serve Him: and the joy and fulfillment will so outshine your old dreams.  Plus, remember dreams are short…they become fuzzy once in the light….they allude us.  God’s plans are real and present, they work for your good, and He knows us better than we know ourselves.  So stop dreaming, and start living.  Stop pursuing perfection, and find rest in His guidance.  Stop trying to control your job, your spouse, your kids, your health, your wealth…and instead give thanks and let the Lord sit in the driver’s seat.

She believed

My version of this beloved phrase

 

 

What does God’s voice sound like?

As many of you know, two weeks ago I made the bittersweet announcement that I was choosing to close my successful business, Flourish Boutique.  In the statement I released, I mentioned how I felt the Lord was calling me on to a different path.  While He called me to open the store, He also called me to close it eight years later.  That announcement post on Facebook went viral, and I received countless calls, emails, comments, and messages from all of you.  The level of love and support we received following our announcement was completely unexpected and touched our family more than you can imagine.  One common theme to the feedback we received both online and in person, was the appreciation for my willingness to openly recognize that my decisions were faith based and my decision to share my testimony publicly.

More specifically, I have had many people ask how I knew what God’s call was or what His voice sounded like.  What a great question.  It makes sense that so many people wondered this…I mean if God’s voice was as easy to hear as a song on the radio or a voicemail in our inbox we would all be leading the most fulfilling and directed lives imaginable, right?!  Of course though, it’s not that easy or distinct and it was a long and painful process for me to determine that closing Flourish was indeed God’s call for me.

Owning Flourish Boutique, was my lifelong dream realized.  It was never about making a lot of money, working a nine to five job, or even the glitz and glamour of pursuing a career in fashion.  As an artist, Flourish was my masterpiece.  The inspiration bubbled up from within, the call to share my ideas with the world felt pressing, and everything from the light fixtures to the clothes we carried were a form of self expression.  The love, time, and energy that went into developing everything from the mission statement, the team of women that worked at Flourish, each season’s collection, the music we played, the displays, the marketing, etc came from deep within me.  And, to say I worked tirelessly to build Flourish is an understatement.  It was the baby I stayed up nights with, my masterpiece that I toiled with, and my God given vocation to pursue.  So about a year ago, when I started to feel and see God’s pull in a new direction, I did not easily acquiesce.

How did I hear God’s voice then, especially when He was not saying what I was expecting to hear?  God’s voice is not one dimensional.  It is not a voice like ours.  God’s voice is a current, which tugs and pulls your life in a direction.  It manifests itself in various ways:  for me it was the opening and closing of doors, major life events, reoccurring themes in songs and Church sermons, threads of conversations with friends and family, and eventually a deep “knowing” inside my soul.   When we don’t necessarily want to recognize that voice or further to obey it, our instinct can be to fight the current.  As a business owner who scrapped and fought to make my boutique survive the recession and prosper thereafter, my instincts to protect my store were strong.  For over a year, I swam against the current: determined I could do it all and determined to stay “true” to my original plans. But that’s the thing about currents: they’re strong and attempts to fight them eventually leave you tired and in danger.  God knows the plans he has for us…plans to prosper us and to give us a future, the bible says.  For me, letting go, and swimming with the current meant putting all my faith in Him and His knowledge for my future.

Gods voice

So many people “congratulated” me as they heard my announcement.  And, don’t worry, if that was you, I’m not upset or hurt by your words.  But, I definitely found it ironic.  Yes, my store was a very successful venture for many years.  Yes, I made a choice to close my store to better fulfill my role as wife and mother in this season in my life.  Yes, spending more time with my loved ones will bring me great joy.  And to some degree, yes, I am looking forward to having some time off from the massive responsibility of being a business owner (especially at the large scale we ran Flourish at).  But, the truth is: I made that decision out of an act of obedience to Christ.  There is real, deep sadness present in my heart right now too, even as I joyfully look forward to a summer spent with my boys.  This was not a course change I planned on or wanted.  This was something God designed for me and I put aside my will and said, “Yes, I will follow you Lord”.

So, when you feel the current in your life change and you realize all the sudden you are fighting to make any progress forward…ask yourself: “Is God’s voice redirecting me?  Am I struggling right now because I’m not meant to swim in this direction?”   If you realize you are in the current of His voice then stop, listen, and watch.  Are doors closing on you that used to stand open?  At Flourish, for me that looked like changes in social media that made it hard to reach my customers.  It meant my best selling model basically going radio silent and not returning phone calls or texts.  It meant long time employees who were ready to move on with their careers.  And then evaluate: are new doors opening?  For me that meant that my husband’s business was growing so much it made it hard for us to pursue two small businesses.  And, where I used to hate domestic work, I found myself finding surprising joy in things like grocery store trips and making home cooked meals.  Further, are you currently experiencing major life changes that make your prior plans challenging?  Are you swimming upstream against major changes.  In my situation, I had a new baby and trying to be a new mom again while still working the insane amount of hours I was used to working, to make Flourish prosper, was near impossible.  My work habits and needs greatly conflicted and even threatened the kind of mom I wanted to be.  So ask yourself: is what I am doing, threatening my character?  Are major changes in life making my old way of life difficult?  And lastly, look for common threads and themes in everything from conversations to songs you hear.  God’s voice and it’s current will find its way into almost every aspect if you are listening.  For me, I found myself listening to the song  Trust in You, by Lauren Daigle, which references “letting go of every single dream” and “Lord, I want what you want and nothing less”.  And then I found myself watching a video featuring a testimony by Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper, which details how she walked away from her first version of Magnolia Market to follow the Lord’s call to spend more time at home raising her children while they were little.

These reoccurring themes, eventually became a deafening roar around me.  And as I continued to fight the current of the Lord’s voice, the current grew stronger and louder, leaving me more and more exhausted.  As I finally relented and opened myself up to what God was saying to me, I found rest and peace even in spite of the coinciding sadness.   He picked me up, tired and barely submissive, and I found myself carried in the current of His Love.  No longer struggling, no longer fighting, I let go and let God.   I still don’t see the exact reasons WHY He changed my course, but I DO feel and recognize the peace that only His path provides again.  I know I’m back in sync with His voice and will finally.  And there is no better place to be.

So I encourage you: listen for God’s voice in your life.  Watch for the change in current, the opening and closing doors, the changes in life that inherently point you in a new direction, the reoccurring themes, and the deep knowledge of what is right inside your heart.  And I promise you that if you stop fighting against the current of His will, even if you are fighting for something that seems good and used to be right, you will find the rest and peace that only He can provide.  The leap of faith is hard, but the price you pay if you keep fighting is high.