On becoming a dreamer again


I used to be a dreamer. When I was a little girl, I wrote the names of my five future children on a notepad. The only one I remember is Peter Lyle. (I’m not quite sure where Lyle came from. Probably the crocodile.) That list sat in my bedroom for years, reminding me often of my imaginary offspring. I still think of it from time to time with a chuckle, amused by my younger self with a penchant for detailed dreaming.


I’ve slowly lost the art of dreaming this year. I suppose living in the suburbs and working a 9-5 job has something to do with it, but true dreamers can thrive in any environment. Like a cactus. They can delight for months in their stored-up dreams, however desert-like their surroundings. (Too far?) That’s a life I’d like to rediscover.


I was sharing my thoughts with a friend recently, and she proposed an interesting question to me: Doesn’t that prevent you from living in reality? True dreaming, I believe, is an art. It requires that I place my feet firmly in the ground and set my sights squarely on my heavenly home and allow my heart to be free in the space between. I must live in the present with an eternal perspective. That’s step one. And while my highest dream ought to be perfect union with God in heaven, I trust that He wants me to live an abundant life here on earth. And that necessitates, at least for me, that I dream.


God reminded me of all this recently in His wonderfully fatherly way. It was a Saturday, one of those perfect, sunny, care-free Saturdays that fill my heart with joy. I was walking along a city street, nestled in a neighborhood with cobblestone streets and window boxes and old churches every few blocks. And then I saw it: my dream apartment. A pristine brownstone looming large in my rosy-eyed view with a yard of lush green grass and stately columns and intricate detailing and tall windows reflecting the day’s perfectly blue skies and perfectly puffy clouds. Yes, my dreamer’s heart was singing. Again I felt that rush of hope, that widening of my often narrow vision, that blessed delight in what could be. And the number to call was right there. Step two: let that little seed of a dream take root.


So, call I did. And I went to go see it and I let my dream take shape. I was slightly troubled by the cost of rent and my roommatelessness, but also taken with the hardwood floors and gas stove and high ceilings and natural light flooding in. (And did I mention the neighborhood?) Along came step three: optimistic realism. High rent? Well, I’ll just have to work extra hard at fundraising. No roommate? Well, I’ll just send dozens of emails and texts to every soul I know in Philly. Keeping that hope alive, I was.


God saw my hopeful, childlike dreaming. He always does. And He had an even more spectacular plan—try as I might to believe that on faith, this time He revealed that truth to me in no uncertain terms. (That show-off. I just love Him.) The day after I saw this dream apartment, literally the next day, I got an email entirely out of the blue from a near stranger, someone I’d met in passing months ago and hadn’t seen since. My friend is looking for a roommate, it began. I read each word as if it were about to disappear, and it hit me: THIS. This is a miracle! This truly is my dream apartment, and not only is it a dream, but it’s reality. (Step four: allow God to take over.) And the best part about it? It’s even better than my first dream. Hardwood floors and all.


It’s amazing how generous God is. I wish it didn’t shock me, but this time, it did. He wants even more for me than I want for myself, has better plans for my life than I could ever conceive. Isn’t that wild? “Hope does not disappoint,” St. Paul writes, “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Hope does not disappoint. Do I believe that? I’m not sure if, in my heart of hearts, I fully do. But I’m not bothered by my shortcomings. I’m learning. I’m delighting in recovering the art of dreaming. I’m glad to be living in such a way that my heart can be broken, but can also grow immeasurably. Feet on the ground, eyes on heaven, and my heart is soaring in the middle.


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