There’s something magical about deciding to go all in.

Photo Credit: Brian Taylor Photography

In that moment when you make the heart-pounding decision to commit to doing whatever it is you most need to do, energy starts flowing through you. Things happen to make you feel as though you’re not alone, as though Something or Someone is blessing your efforts. It’s as though a mysterious force actually wants you to succeed. This is both unnerving and exciting.

Just a year ago, I dreamed (and feared the dream) of becoming a full-time writer. I longed to work on projects that inspired me, and to spend more time nurturing the relationships that matter most. And with a lot of hard work and even more grace, that dream has become reality.

But the story doesn’t end there, because once you go through the process of seeing one dream to fruition, you get to think bigger … even as you continue to live out the truth that big things start small, always.


Recently, I decided to go all in on my next dream — bringing a new book into being. The details are under wraps (new ideas need time to grow deep roots), but I’m working on a new collection of stories. And the process of putting together a book, humble and hard as it is, always changes me.

Yet even though I love to make books, the process scares me, too. I’m only human. I hesitate and make excuses — the usual ones about money, time, and responsibility. But deep down, I know: they’re smoke screens.

Having come face-to-face with this, I told my husband Jonathan about it on our evening walk. As we strode through our neighborhood, I said that I wanted to dive into the new book, but that doing so might mean less earned income for a time. I knew that we’d be fine, but still, the choice to write the book would affect us both.

He listened and nodded calmly, with a look of concealed excitement in his eyes. And I remembered: for as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve been daring one another to move toward what matters most.


Photo: UNA

We turned a corner, and Jonathan said, “Let’s walk by the fountain on our way home.” I thought he meant a central fountain I pass every day, but he led me to the University of North Alabama’s campus. I was unprepared for what I saw there: a fountain all aglow, streaming beautifully into the night.

We stood by the fountain’s dedication plaque. And as I read, I felt a ‘God-jolt’, a surge of energy that directs me in my biggest decisions. If I had to put it into words, it would translate to something like: This is not random. This is right.

It happened when I went for a walk at a retreat center in 2009. I stopped still on a forest path with this truth washing over me like waves: If Jonathan asks me to marry him, I will say yes with all my heart.

And it happened again last week, as I stood by the fountain he had led me to and read about a woman named Laura Harrison who had achieved her dream of getting her college degree. And she had the plaque inscribed with these words:

“In making the donation to establish this plaza, Laura Harrison and her husband wish to inspire students, faculty and visitors to reach for their dreams, and to find a way to make them come true.”


Dreams worth achieving take time and effort to come to fruition. Even so, there are a few small things you can do that would help me a great deal today.

If you can, please take a moment to …

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  • Details on the above: At the encouragement of a friend, I entered the Bloggers for Good contest, which awards a social-change blogger $500 for the top blog concept, and $1,000 to contribute to the change-making organization of their choice. As you’d expect, I’ve chosen L’Arche Washington DC as the receiving organization for A Wish Come Clear. If you’re all about celebrating people with special needs and working for greater acceptance in our world, cast your vote for both of us! Voting is super-easy and it just takes a second; in fact, you can vote through your Facebook account. (Polls close on August 1st.)

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  1. mary Shapiro July 23, 2012 at 7:53 PM - Reply

    tears on my cheeks as once again, your writing has touched a spark in my heart Caroline….So here’s a question: space and time are precious things: especially for Dreamers and Dreams. Do I put my dreams (writing a children’s book based on one of my songs, compiling my next CD) on hold and give space and time now to and with my family as we journey with my mother’s Living into Dementia / Dying? OR… is it even MORE important NOW to follow and work on my dreams? Your thoughts?

    • Caroline McGraw July 23, 2012 at 11:17 PM - Reply

      Oh, what a great (and challenging) question, Mary! I’m so thankful for your comments & your friendship.

      I’d advocate for pursuing your dreams even as you give space and time to be with your family in this difficult journey. Each commitment will fuel the other — if you’re working on your art, you’ll have more of yourself to offer your family; if you’re present to your family, you’ll have deeper experience to draw from in your art.

      Of course, that’s much easier said than done! For bigger creative projects, I like Julia Cameron’s mantra of ‘easy does it’ — that is, ‘easy accomplishes it’. For example, I have an ‘easy’ goal to spend around 1.5 hours at the library, first thing each workday (weekends are for fun and family time), working on my next book. It’s not a huge amount of time, and that’s intentional – I tend to get spooked if I block out larger blocks for such a daunting project! Yet 1-2 hours is also a significant enough amount of time which will allow me to complete the first phase of the project in just a few weeks if I’m faithful to it. So that would be my vote — committing to a small but sacred space of creative time in the midst of your family’s needs. I can’t wait to see what comes of it! 🙂

  2. Harriet Cabelly July 23, 2012 at 8:01 PM - Reply

    Love this line, “daring one another to move toward what matters most.”. Isn’t that what we all want in a true relationship, one where we help each other stretch and be all we can be. You are fortunate to have found that in a partner. Go for it. Even the fountain ‘told’ you to.

    Thank you for sharing Jill Egle. I’m sharing her utube.

    I’ve tried voting a couple of times. I can’t tell whether it went through or not.

    • Caroline McGraw July 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM - Reply

      The fountain ‘told’ me to — I love that! Thank you, Harriet. And indeed, Jill’s story is a wonderful one. Thank you for your vote!!!

  3. Metod July 24, 2012 at 11:16 AM - Reply

    Oh Caroline, what a heartwarming post. When a couple support each other in perusing their dreams, amazing things can happen. With your help, he’ll create your dream home, and with his support you’ll be encouraged to start writing. And us readers…we’ll be sending positive energy…as always.
    Big hugs to you both!

    • Caroline McGraw July 25, 2012 at 12:15 AM - Reply

      🙂 Big hugs right back! Thank you for that encouragement, Metod.

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