When a Dream Dies

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt

Some girls played house as a child, but I played business. I spent hours turning our family’s guest room into a business office. I remember using old data reports my dad brought home and would study them. I organized my desk with pens, a stapler, a calculator, and a busted telephone and keyboard. I loved the sound the keys made as I typed up my “reports”.

When I was 15 all I wanted to do was be powerful, important, and in charge. I wanted to be a C-Level executive when I grew up. My idol was Oprah Winfrey!

But, as you might know, this teenage girl’s dream never came true.

Fast forward about 10 years later, I found myself taking my fifth pregnancy test in a two hour window, each reporting the same result: Double pink. Clearly blue. Error proof... Stefani, you are POSITIVELY pregnant! I bawled my eyes out. Those weren’t tears of excitement and thanksgiving, but ones of fear and disappointment. This wasn’t the plan, this wasn’t my plan!

Not only was becoming a mom the death of my childhood dreams of professional fame, it was in part a death of self. It was an exercise of reorienting my will with God’s will. How often had I prayed “thy will be done” and actually meant it?

In a very short period of time the world I knew -- the world that I had dreamed up -- was turned upside down. In hindsight that’s exactly how God has always revealed Himself to me - in big, bold, life altering moments.

But in those early weeks of my marriage, I still felt sorry for myself. I often cried myself to sleep. While I wasn’t going to be the next Oprah Winfrey, I did have dreams of using my MBA and working for a local non-profit agency. I had wanted to build my career before having children. I dreaded becoming “just a mom”.

Didn’t God see that through my career I could use my gifts and talents to help those in need?

I remember one day looking in the mirror and not recognizing the woman staring back at me. She was tired, sad and worn. While she was going through the motions of life, she had stopped living with purpose.

That girl had stopped dreaming.

It must have been sometime around this realization that I allowed God to swoop in and reignite my passion for Him, for living, for dreaming! Somewhere between toddlers and babies, job changes and moving, and many many prayers of desperation, He met me.

By His grace, I gave myself permission to dream big again. To set goals for myself even if I was “just a mom”.  

And I learned during this time that a new dream was born, because I allowed my previous dream to die.

I discovered a dream that gets me out of bed every morning and sometimes keeps me up late at night (both literally and figuratively).

My biggest, wildest, most audacious dream is to be a kick ass mom and wife.

(Also, I love Jesus and a little bit of cussing.)

This is MY goal. And I have dedicated my everything to pursuing it- because it’s not only worth fighting for, it’s worth dying for. In the marrow of my bones, without an ounce of doubt, this is my dream!

I want to raise good men and women and have a marriage that they can build upon. I want to raise men and women who love Jesus first and their neighbors second. I also pray they are both capable and sturdy. And that they are good stewards of the gifts God has bestowed on them.

(Fine! I also want them to use good manners and hygiene. For the love! Is it that hard to remember to wash your hands every time you use the restroom or look people in the eyes when they are speaking to you?)   

I want them to know that no matter how far they wander -- Chris and I will always be their home base. And the Lord is their rock and their refuge!

Everything about my life’s dream is synonymous with my life mission.

The reason I am sharing this isn’t to further spur on the mompetition or comparison. I’m sharing to remind you (and me) that just because we lay one dream to rest, doesn’t mean we’re quitters. Nor does it mean we are incapable of dreaming up a new one.

I’m speaking to those of you who have let go of a dream. Those of you who are still mourning who you “could have been.” Those of you who beat yourself up every time you see an Instagram post about someone else living the life you once wanted.

I admit that I struggle choosing gratitude over jealousy. It’s hard to watch my former undergrad and grad school classmates achieve their professional dreams, while I sit in my off-brand athleisure wear, writing a blog about being a mom.

But I want you to read this part twice because it’s the same thing I have to tell myself on the reg: you are not a quitter. You didn’t let anyone down. You aren’t any less because “she” has gone on to do what you didn’t or couldn’t do.

It means that you made a shift in your value system. You changed the way you looked at your life and your family. You defined “success” in a new way. It means you went back to your vision board, tore it all down, and pinned new images to inspire you.  

What I want to tell you is that you are no less living out your dream than the woman you are comparing yourself to right now. You are not inferior to her, you are simply living out a different dream - your dream.

It has taken years for me to arrive at a place where I can say, with confidence, that even though my childhood dream was laid to rest doesn’t mean that I gave up.

Let me be clear, if you’re still climbing that ladder, closing that deal or crushing those professional goals - I applaud you and high five you. Keep on keepin on, mama bear. You work that goal, you live that dream.*

But, if you have found yourself looking into the mirror and feeling disappointed at the woman looking back at you - I want to invite you to look again. If you’ve stopped dreaming or forgotten what it means to pursue a goal, grant yourself permission to start over again.

God loves do-overs. He is the God of second chances.

And no matter what your (new or old) dream is, I hope you kick ass at it.

“...nobody will ever care about your dream as much as you do. …It doesn’t keep them up at night. It doesn’t light their soul on fire. It’s your dream.”

-Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face

*To all “working moms”... I thank you. My life would literally not be the same without you. You are my kids’ teachers, my favorite pediatrician, my Aldi cashiers, my mailwoman, and my Camp Gladiator trainers! God bless you (and all the mamas who make my life a better place).

Stef Blackwell

Stef Blackwell and her husband are raising their four kids and living the dream deep in the heart of suburbia, Flower Mound, TX. She’s a raging choleric and high functioning introvert, which some have said is impossible. But alas, here she lives to tell her tale. Her greatest strength is bossing people around; her greatest weakness is she bosses people around - and Jesus loves her just the way she is - today. She looks for the one mama who is standing alone and strives to bring them into the fold. God has given her a passion for marriage, motherhood, and living missionally.