If I were to share with you all of the amazing dreams I have lived since my birth in 1966, it would take up a book rather than a blog post. Therefore, I am going to start with a dream I had when I was in the 7th grade. I wrote down the commitment that I made to living the dream of working at the Florida United Methodist Children's Home and tucked it safely away in my Confirmation Bible.
I don't think I shared the dream with anyone else because it seemed rather improbable. I loved my Bible and I loved every sacred item that I placed determinedly, reverently and privately, in its pages. This bit of paper where my 7th grade self made such an important commitment is a sacred treasure to me so it is very fitting that I placed my dream in a sacred keeping place.
As I got older, I realized how improbable my dream would become. I learned that the pay was minimal and that the job of House Parent required that my husband do the job with me. Of course, those obstacles did not occur to me when I committed myself to the dream as a child. I thought, “Oh, well…you were a child and you didn’t know better. No need to worry about childhood commitments. God will understand.”
I went on to college and got a degree in Elementary Education and began teaching public school. I won awards for innovation in education, received grants for special projects and became a Professional Development Trainer, consultant, and curriculum writer for the School Board while still relatively new to teaching. My husband worked for Delta Airlines and we were desperately trying to have a child of our own. We enjoyed traveling with Delta and the terrific benefit package the company offered.
Just when we thought we had our life figured out we faced an earth quake sized shift in our life. After 7 years of marriage, a pregnancy and birth fraught with complications, we finally had our precious child. She was born in September and in December my husband went into work as normal but came home from work without a job. He had been laid off. In the months that followed, he worked desperately to come up with another job that would adequately replace his lost income but it didn’t happen. We ran out of savings and we were more than desperate.
It was at this time of searching that the dream made itself known again. I was reading the job listings in our local and very small newspaper and astonishingly to me; I saw an advertisement for House Parents at the very Children's Home I had dreamed of so many years ago. The largest obstacle to us living this dream was now behind us. We no longer had to consider the challenge of leaving the luxury and trajectory of my husband’s job at Delta. Time had taken that barrier away from us and our great need smoothed off our edges and prepared us to live at poverty level in order to live the dream.
Saying, "Yes" to this dream meant letting other dreams go. We put our house on the market. We left our pool, corner lot, and privacy fenced back yard (which, I thoroughly enjoyed) and most painfully, we had to find new homes for our beloved shelties. We sold precious furniture pieces and left our comfortable life style behind as we embarked on one of the most challenging and important quests of our lives.
While I was the oldest of four children and had more education and experience than was required to be hired, my husband was the youngest child in his family and did not have any child care experience at all. This was no small obstacle. Gratefully, we participated in quality training events that have helped to form us into the people we are today.
We were assigned to Shannon Cottage and we moved in with 12 girls between the ages of Kindergarten and 18 years old. With our daughter of 10 months old, the 12 girls and ourselves, I suddenly was responsible for preparing meals for a household of 15. Helping children with homework, managing after school activities, chores, medical and counseling needs as well as behavior programs took all that we could muster.
I can’t say that we were prepared for the depth of the challenges we would face. We went through a two year period of constantly battling lice and scabies. Let me tell you, bugs and dirty things are seriously gross to me. This challenged everything in my being. Even harsher was dealing with the parents who had abused and/or abandoned their children but thought they should have input into the way I cared for their children. I learned that I was called to love all of humanity at the same time as hating the evil humanity is capable of perpetuating.
Living the dream was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It was also one of the most important. The sheer desperation of the struggle taught me more about the human condition than I could have ever imagined. Spending my nights scrubbing floors taught me to more deeply understand laboring for love. I was able to connect with the deep abandonment that others were facing and the parts of myself that I had abandoned. I found out that as much as I hate scrubbing floors, or eating from the local food pantry, I could do so out of sheer unadulterated love for my family and my extended family. The extreme challenges taught me about the strength of my family of three, the depth of my inner resources and the importance of my faith.
As I currently face one of the challenging times of living my current dream of being a working artist, I am reminded of the lessons I learned 18 years ago when I said "Yes" to the dream of my 7th grade self, knowing full well the improbability of it all while also not fully understanding the deep and powerful challenges we would face. Despite the struggles, I sometimes think of going back to the Children’s Home out of the powerful love I have for the children. Yet, I know, I have already lived that dream and other dreams calling to me now.
Would you like the support you need to live your dreams? Do you need a listening ear that can offer you specific praise and encouragement? Would you like help creating attainable and measurable goals so that you, too, are able to live your dreams? Would you like to create your own life plan or a stage of life plan? I offer one on one mentoring sessions tailored to your specific needs. Contact me at TammyDialGray@aol.com for more information or to schedule your session.