Jessica Williams lives in Kansas with her husband, kids, a dog, and a fish. She enjoys spending time with her family, watching Doctor Who, and reading. Jessica blogs about allergen free cooking at Allergen Free Cook and life at Curbing Myself when time allows.
A friend once told me a story from a time in her childhood where, having learned about the momentous strides women made in history, went home to her mom bemoaning “there are no good causes left to fight for.”
I chuckled at the time, but later after changing another diaper, feeding another toddler, and doing yet another load of…well, both dishes and laundry, her precocious school child statement looked more like a glaring fact.
Good grief, how had this happened? I was married. I had kids, in plural! I lived in the midwest! Where was the dramatic, purpose-filled life that resembled Amy Carmichael or Mother Teresa?
An angsty funk set in. For two years I pondered what I was doing. I read just about every book I could find on the purpose of motherhood, because we are supposed to bloom where we are planted, right?
As good and true as those books were, I still mostly felt like a feeding-cleaning-soothing machine. I wouldn’t trade my choices about my kids or staying home with them for anyone else’s life, but I had lost me and that was just as unhealthy. None of the dreams I had imagined for my life were in play, and it was a time of grief and mourning, followed by a space of emptiness.
What to do? In very “me” style, I read. I read real books, books without pictures! It was my first step in getting re-acquainted with myself. And while it was great to feel my brain stretch and flex, it took many books and words before I realized that it might be ok—good even—to dream new, completely different dreams.
But then I read these words by Catherynne Valente that enabled me to move forward: “The wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets. The trouble is, not everyone can tell when they ought to launder their wishes [...]”.
It was well past time to wash off my wishes. If it had only taken one hard scrubbing, but that was not the case. Getting to know me again, the more adult me, took some time.
But, in doing so, I discovered there are many good, worthy causes left, and I learned which ones I am passionate about. I am passionate about words, words that give life and speak truth because those words build stories that matter.
I have a child with multiple food allergies, so I am passionate about helping other moms find safe, successful, economical ways to feed their families. I am passionate about gender equality that says we are both here to steward and redeem creation and do so in a way that pictures Christ. I am passionate about teaching my children to respect all of Christ’s image bearers, even when they do wrong, and when we disagree.
I am passionate about the Church learning that dealing with gender confusion and sexual identity is more than shining the light on sin and telling the person to go away until they are fixed. It is giving people a safe, loving place to go when they are afraid, lonely and confused, a quiet place where they will be able to hear the Holy Spirit whisper to their hearts.
I am passionate about the Church learning that as long there are neighborhoods where Christians are not a more loving, comforting, secure presence than the local women’s clinic, that horrors like those found in the recent Gosnell trial are likely to continue. I am passionate about teaching my kids these things and more—that the Gospel is found in the gray spaces that are fraught with tension, but that the tension keeps us mindful of our need for grace.
I am not superwoman. I am not a crusader. I am washing off my wishes. Won’t you join me? There are causes left worth fighting for.
Mona Pineda makes time for moongazing and stargazing, daydreaming and labyrinth walking in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The work she does as a missionary, freelance writer, Spiritual Director and Victim’s Advocate allows her to live her dreams and to inspire the dreams of others. Her calling to be a Benedictine Oblate bids her to live with a listening heart and open hands. Mona has six grown children, each one of them her very favorite. She blogs at A Glorious Ruin.
I spent many, many years divorced from my own heart. The circumstances of my life required obedience, rigor, and productivity. It was a hardscrabble black and white life for this tender hearted romantic. There was certainly no room in my life for imagination, creativity or dreaming.
So, out of fear, shame and self preservation, I bound up my dreams and longings and buried them way down deep. I told myself that my heart did not matter. I told myself that keeping the peace and not making waves were more important than anything I wanted or desired. I told myself that I was honoring God by giving up and ignoring the things that I loved most. I told myself that dreams were only for Disney princesses.
But, today I live a ‘pinch me I can’t believe I am doing this’ kind of life. I am living out, leaning into, and learning to trust the desires in my own heart. My life is running over with surprises and adventure. I am learning to dream again.
These days, I have a bucket list of dreams. They are listed on my blog, right out there, bold and ballsy, for the whole world to see. An ever-growing declaration of the desires of my rekindled and adventurous heart. Hike the Camino de Santiago, learn to ride a horse, take tap dancing lessons. I moon and dream about these things. What unbridled joy it is for me to live those dreams, check them off and add more dreams.
Similarly, I carry a tender, fragile unpublished bucket list tucked in the pocket of my heart. These are barely mentionable dreams. Delicate and sacred dreams, very real but hard to articulate. I don’t share those gentle dreams with many. The soul friends who surround and protect my heart hold and guard those dreams with me. These dreams steady and buoy me and keep me balanced.
And there is a third bucket list—a bucket list that I believe our good God has for me. You see, I spent ever so many years fearing and serving a terse, demanding unimaginative god, a god whose favorite word was ‘No!’ It never occurred to me that God might have dreams for me. I just thought God wanted me to sit still, mind my manners, and behave.
But these days, in this life of bucket list living, I am learning to say ‘yes’ to the God who says ‘yes’ to me. I am learning to listen to the invitation and daring of a God who invites me to sail deep and dangerous waters. I am learning to believe in the ‘too good to be true’ wild ideas of a God who invites me into a life of risk and adventure. I am learning to trust the lover of my soul who believes in me and walks beside me in my journey. I want to everyday remember that the God who dreamed me into being has glorious dreams and big ideas for me. A bucket list of dreams, poured out just for me.
So here it is. I know this now: dreams are not just for Disney princesses. Dreams are for glorious ruins like me. And I know this as well. It’s never too late. It’s never too late to live happily ever after.
Nicole Phinney is a digital storyteller, editor, writer, and apprentice spiritual director. Nicole lives and listens in Austin, Texas, and blogs at Small Change.
Found Wanting from Nicole Phinney on Vimeo.
(Music is selected by the contributor and used at their discretion. ABM does not profit from the use of this song.)
Aletheia Schmidt has been making new things from old things for most of her life but it wasn’t until recently, that she began calling herself an artist. Stepping away from the security of a regular paycheck, Aletheia considers herself blessed with the chance of a lifetime to venture into a new season of exploration and deep courage. She is in the midst of pursuing her new found love of painting her prayers and longs for opportunities to share how the arts, imagination, and creativity offer life, teaching and sharing every chance she gets. For more of her work and writings, visit her blog or find her on Twitter. You can also check out herPinterest page, connect on her Facebook page, or go to her Etsy shop.
I’ve had the same dream, several times, always with my eyes open. It includes an old farmhouse, loads of land, and the best-lit-kitchen with an enormous wooden table and me, long hippy hair, welcoming the other. Arms extended, nothing but smiles, and happy hearts. Lots of happy hearts.
I believe in dreams and I believe in the power of reminding ourselves of our dreams. So I painted this picture, with the pond surrounded by weeping willows that will sit in front of my very favorite farm house one day. And I painted the Spirit, coming in powerfully like a rain cloud. And I begged Her to come and invade this place, this space.
*Illustrations in this post are property of Aletheia Schmidt and may not be copied or reproduced without permission from the artist. Please visit the links above for more information or to obtain prints.
Would you like to win some of Aletheia’s artwork? Leave a comment below with your name and anything you’d like to share about what you believe about dreams. We will choose a winner at random on Saturday 5/4 to receive a set of three greeting cards with Aletheia’s original paintings.
Bekah DiFelice is an adventurer, writer, and Jesus-enthusiast. She lives in San Diego, CA, where she rides her Vespa scooter, turns strangers into friends, and continues to work on a secret handshake with her husband Mike. Follow her adventures at the happy ones.
For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to figure out the dream version of my very own life.
In high school and college, I would spend worried nights trying to figure out a dream job so I could plan a class schedule accordingly. The scariest question in the world was, “So, what do you want to do?” That question makes everybody feel like an irresponsible dreamer.
Then, when a devastatingly charming man asked me to be his Mrs., I spent months trying to figure out the color scheme of a dream wedding and the most cost-effective version of a centerpiece. The centerpieces became a sort of nightmare, which is why every dream-wedding really needs a dream-mother-in-law.
Further into adulthood, I had lots of conversations at dinner parties and coffee dates about dream houses or dream wardrobes or dream vacations that could all be admired with varying degrees of optimism. That kind of dreaming was often a form of lust that built camaraderie. It was intent without motion, like eating ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser. I got sick of it after a while, discussing material dreams that didn’t feel personal at all.
I think real dreams, the true and most awakening kind, are vehicles for worship. God invests an idea in us, and we live out a task or purpose that leads back to a sovereign source. It is so very personal, proof that God knows us individually and intimately.
God is the ultimate fisherman, tossing out dream-bait that He uses to reel us back to Himself. When a dream is stripped down and put up to the light, we see it as the articulation of that reeling-in-activity, a method used by the relentless Fisher of Men to bring us into His best for us.
Maybe God gives us dreams to bond us to a bigger story, to remind us that each dream is connected to the reel in his hand.
Dreams also give our faith necessary specificity, providing a topic of conversation with a really big God. They give our life direction, showing us what these hands, these finances, and these pockets of time were created for. He asks us to worship and then puts a tool in our hand to say, “This is how.”
God is faithful that way. He provides the very currency for this worship-exchange.
Colleen Briggs creates art in her Colorado Springs, CO, combo laundry room/studio, mixing paintings and art supplies with the clothes of her beloved husband of 20 years and four children, two adopted from a Kenyan orphanage. Following Jesus around the world in former jobs as an InterVarsity staffworker and Director of Orphan Care for Hope’s Promise catalyze her attempts to capture in words and images the vast love of our Creator. She also enjoys making jewelry and guiding the designs of Kenyan HIV+ single mothers and the orphans of Sanctuary of Hope (SoH) to sell through Pamba Toto, a company she co-founded in 2006 to raise money for Hope’s Promise. You can learn more about her journey at email@example.com.
When I was a child, creating was second-nature, like breathing. I wiled away carefree days writing stories, drawing pictures, inhabiting imaginary worlds. Although neither of my parents consider themselves artistic, they root my journey. I treasure early memories of Crayola coloring with my dad. When growing-up realities usurped childhood freedom, I never thought twice about majoring in art.
I also knew the world was broken. I lived during early adolescence in the Outback town of Alice Springs, Australia. There, I witnessed first-hand the struggle of the Aborigines, who construct makeshift homes in a riverbed, until it rains. How could I close my eyes to the suffering of the world, I wondered, and insulate myself in a cocoon of paint?
Nevertheless, I earned a degree in fine arts. Soon after graduation, I went on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, wielding “paintbrushes” of God’s Word on the “canvas” of hearts. Transformation of souls ignited my imagination.
Still, like a wanton child at bedtime, the question of why God gave me gifts in the visual arts refused to lie down. People encouraged me – perhaps the talents were to be just a language between myself and God, or perhaps they were the impetus for creative thought in other fields.
Through InterVarsity, my heart shattered as my awareness of desperate world poverty grew. In 2001, my husband and I adopted our beloved son from Kenya. Witnessing his orphanage and subsequent mission trips to Kenya lit a fiery zeal that eventually launched me into the position of Director of Orphan Care for Hope’s Promise.
But like a hardy perennial weed, my artistic-self squeezed through the soil. I fertilized it with random works of art, but questioned how creating art that I stacked in the basement could compare with holding a baby dying of AIDS?
And yet, I noticed while visiting people in their dark, dank shacks in Mathare Valley, the second largest slum of East Africa: a beautifully patterned scrap of fabric, a brightly colored image torn from a calendar tacked to rusty corrugated metal walls.
In 2009, following one of our children’s life-altering diagnosis, I plunged into deep depression. Like a siren, my paints and brushes called. Hope surged in the balm of creativity. I wondered, Could I grasp at last those childhood dreams I had long suppressed? Maybe God was speaking and I refused to listen. Perhaps I lacked the courage. Perhaps the time simply wasn’t right. I longed to linger with my watercolors and pastels. But after a few months, I walked away again.
Longing to Be Free; 2009; 15” x 20”; ink, watercolor, pastel, charcoal. Available in a giclee limited edition; 13” x 18”.
I plunged back into full responsibilities at work and a frenetic pace, traveling the world and caring for my four children. Days rushed by, brushes gathered dust, paints dried, and cracked.
Then in 2011, life screeched to a most unexpected halt when my Dad, also one of my closest friends, died. I painted my sorrow to stay alive. At the same time, I slowed down long enough to realize that on-going challenges with our two special needs children were depleting my inner resources to dangerous levels. In the silence, in the unplanned moments with those I love, my soul cried out to be heard.
This time I listened. My dreams, and I believe God speaking through them, arrested my full attention. Certainly, not without grief. I loved my job and believe whole-heartedly in its mission. But I realized I could no longer continue. I slashed away to the very core of what matters now. With the support and encouragement of a few close life companions, foremost my husband, I realized that if I am to live, I need to create as much as I need to breath.
Life is still full and overwhelming. But, I paint almost every day. I am present to a deeper awareness of God, an abiding gratitude.
I feel like the years until now are a compost pile, deep dark humus yielding profound truths as I turn spades of images and words. The word “humble” shares the same Latin root as “humus.” Indeed, I am humbled as I listen to my dreams—to the gifts, and the limitations, that finally give them a voice loud enough for me to hear.
Should I have listened sooner, or did I need years of experience to have something worthwhile to say? Is this my final vocation? Or will I one day engage a conglomerate of social service and artistic pursuit? Standing knee-deep in humus, I have no idea. But this I know: I am listening now to my dreams, and through them, God is giving me life. And freedom.
Free Indeed; 2012; 14″ x 22″; watercolor, ink, pastel. Available in a giclee limited edition; 13” x 18”.
*Illustrations in this post are property of Colleen Briggs. Please contact Colleen Briggs at the e-mail address above if you would like to purchase a print.