I’ve always been afraid — or perhaps “hesitant” is a better word — to stand out. I don’t always enjoy the spotlight, especially when I know my audience may not agree with my opinion.

Yet the irony of my world is that for as long as I can remember, I have always stood out. I suppose it’s my own fault.
I’m driven by an inherent flaw, or need (however you want to classify it) to speak my mind, take risks, follow my instincts and continue to challenge myself in work, love and life.

I’m also a big dreamer. I dream in color.
I also dream in sweat, blood and “It’s-going-to-happen-ness.” When I set my mind on something – that’s it. It’s going to happen.

My dreams are more than passing, hopeful visualizations. They get inside me. I can hear them and see them and feel their breath on my neck. And when I stumble upon the right ones, the dreams that keep me up at night, I turn into a worried, stressful mess, calculating how long and what methods and contacts I’ll need to achieve said dream by (insert deadline here).

And then the bad part sets in: I start thinking about all the angry, Negative Nancies who are likely to come against me. Or I think about all the failures of my past that are likely to discredit my dream. But in fear (Oh, Lord Jesus, in so much fear) I choose to walk through the door and go after the dream – all the while my gut is in knots, my lips are shaking and I nervously pick at the sides off my thumbs because I don’t want to bite my nails.

But even while operating in fear, just walking through the process of a accomplishing a dream, often produces great end results. And those end results and achievements often push my fame-shy soul right into the spotlight.

During my seven years in journalism, I’ve won countless writing awards, two of them national with one more national award shortly in tow, I recently found out. And every time an award falls in my lap, for a brief moment I think, Someone made a mistake. This doesn’t belong to me. How could I have been chosen for this?

There are so many others just like me who …But then I have to remind myself that the award is from God. He’s rewarding me for pursuing the dreams he puts in my heart. The other day while having an emotional breakdown because I was in pursuit of a new type of dream and receiving a lot of verbal resistance from a crowd of naysayers around me, a friend of mine — who I often turn to for encouragement and prayer when I’m struggling to find courage — reminded me that we’re all “Born to be.”
Whoever we are, she means, is who we were born to be.

And when we’re not “be-ing” as we’re supposed to be “be-ing,” then our worlds, our lives and relationships become unbalanced. We’re only fulfilled, she reminded me, when we’re “doing our dream,” or as I call it, “The thing God designed you to do.”

I read a great passage the other day from “God’s Dream for You: Finding Lasting Change in Jesus,” by Matthew Barnett, who talks early in the book about ministering to the homeless in Los Angeles when he first started in church pastoral service years ago. Rather than asking the poor how he could serve them, or what needs he could help them with, he asked them, “What is your Dream?”

Many of the people hadn’t thought about their dreams in years, if ever, yet Barnett emphasized the importance of the question. They needed to think about their dreams and have a vision, he said, because if they could see themselves achieving a dream, they may be able to visualize a way to get to an end result. So if he could get them thinking about their dream, he theorized they may start holding their life choices to a higher standard.

In other words, when we dare to dream we resist behaviors and minimize decisions and relationships that may corrupt the path we need to take to accomplish the dream. That spoke to me. That spoke to me loud. Because it’s true. I know I’m always making decisions about whether I should do, say, or go somewhere based on how it will affect Dream (X).

For me, I don’t follow my dreams, or make bold decisions for fame, money, love, awards, or anything else. I do it because I can’t live any other way. It’s part of my personality. I can’t live well without dreaming and thinking up practical ways to achieve them. And as much I don’t always love the attention, or the criticism for thinking (and going, often) outside the box, I wouldn’t have accomplished many of the things in my life if I hadn’t dared to dream, then step out of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith.

So I hope you’ll ask yourself this week, “What is my dream?” Because if you don’t know, you can’t even begin to achieve it. Then sit back and ask yourself if you’re willing to stand out and take criticism? If you’re afraid and nervous right now – you’re ready to get started.

Until next time Dream big and Soar!

Jennifer