Are you giddy with excitement? After all, you've done it . . . you've realized your dream. It's time to celebrate! Your dream has come to fruition, and it's now time to live it. Give yourself credit for your vision and making the journey. I hope you took time to enjoy the journey. In my case, the journey was as important as--and at times more important than--the dream itself. The journey helped me learn my capabilities and who I could count on for encouragement and support.

Living my dream helped me learn more about what I'm made of and who I am. Because living your dream makes you deal with the realities of the dream in context. And reality can bite. Sometimes the bites are nibbles; sometimes they create wounds that require stitches. Don't get me wrong, my life in Paris is rich--full of diverse experiences. I have wonderful friends, there's a rich culture, a diverse population, great food, art, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, Louvre Museum, Opera Garnier, Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, and so on and so on. But, like life, it's not always sunny. As a matter of fact, it rains quite often. And the only time birds have pooped on my head (and face) has been in Paris. It's become fairly routine. I mean, really, is there a message?! There are issues with unbelievable bureaucracy, daily life, etc. And my life in Paris revolves around my illness. Unfortunately, the realities of life don't take a vacation because you're living your dream.

What I've learned, however, is that it's all in how you cope. If/when the tough times come, it's paramount to be more focused on living (enjoying) your dream than surviving it. For example, when I'm faced with challenges unique to being in Paris, I take time to walk along the Seine River, look up at the Eiffel Tower if it's near and, more often than not, savor a macaron or other yummy pastry (that I ordered in "Franglais"--my combination of French and English). I've been through the fire and had to wing it in the midst of struggles while living my dream. But it's been worth it. I have no regrets. The Paris I see now--my Paris--is more beautiful than I imagined because it's touchable, relatable. I've learned to appreciate it despite its imperfections, which I see more clearly now. While it's often true that you can't know what you're getting until you get it, what you see when you take off the blinders and the rose colored glasses (the fantasies of your dream) can be a beautiful blossom. It may require a shift in your thinking, but learning to see things, people, and situations for what they are rather than what we want or imagine them to be, is one of the greatest lessons we can learn in life. Living my dream has taught me as much about life and myself as it's taught me about life in Paris. No matter how difficult, it's been a joyous, enlightening, and enriching experience.

Very few things in life are as perfect as we imagine, right? With that in mind, you may need to remind yourself a time or two that this dream is what you asked/worked for. As with anything else, you must take the good with the bad. And no matter how living the dream turns out for you, bear in mind that it took a lot of effort and courage to get where you are. Even if it turns out to be something less than you envisioned, don't overlook the blessings/advantages. You now know you're capable of doing something of this magnitude, and you'll always be able to say you lived your dream. No one can take that from you. And you don't have to live this dream forever. There's no shame in deciding you've had enough of the dream. Others may view it differently, but it was your dream and you fulfilled it, so you've succeeded in what you set out to do. And that means that if you're so inclined, you can plan and live another dream. You are strong, capable, and courageous. And even if you don't know it, you have inspired others. I applaud you. Bravo!

One of the greatest blessings of living my dream has been the ability to use the experience to help others. It would be a hollow victory if I were the only person served by realizing my dream. I pray that sharing some of my experiences has been a blessing to you. It's been a joy for me.
Are you familiar with the bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? It's one of my favorites. You can read it in its entirety in Daniel 3. In summary, it's the story of three men who disobeyed the king's edict to fall down and worship the king's golden statue, and ended up being thrown into a fiery furnace. They stood firmly on their belief that there is only one true God--the only one they would worship. They believed that their God would deliver them from the furnace, but even if He did not, they would not bow down to serve any other god. As a result, the king had the heat in the furnace increased sevenfold, and the men were bound and thrown fully clothed into the fiery furnace. Many people came to watch. However, as the king was looking inside the burning furnace, he noticed there were not 3, but 4, men walking around in the fire, with one looking like a god. He called for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out. The fire hadn't touched them at all--they were unscorched, unsinged, untainted even by the smell of smoke.

Have you ever been thrown in life's furnace? I know I have. Many times. And I've often felt like a circus monkey with some folks watching to see if I would be scorched. Now  there were times when I was singed because I was trying to handle things on my own. But in those times when I wore the right clothes (some of you know where I'm going with this), I came out unharmed. I don't mean there weren't some lessons learned. If we're smart, we're always looking for lessons. But when I put on my armor and, instead of trying to handle it myself, looked to God for my help, those are the times I came out of the fire without even a hint of smoke. And I feel joy in my soul about that.
How about you? Have you ever felt like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How did you handle it?