The Trouble With Dreams

by Laura on March 16, 2013

Matt and I were driving the other day and we stumbled on a For Sale sign to some of the most gorgeous property we’ve seen in a while. It was close to town but bordered by National Forest, had a lodge overlooking rolling hills, a pond, and the top of Pikes Peak. It even had a horse barn, for heaven’s sake. It was gorgeous.

And as we drove down the dirt road, my mind started spinning with possibilities.

Kelty could actually have horses in a place like this, just like she’s always dreamed. We could get a four-wheeler for Cade, and the kids could grow up working outside and playing in the woods. And we could get a dog that wouldn’t bother the neighbors and would have plenty of room to run. Our parents and friends could stay in one of the three guest cabins on the property.

And Matt and I could grow old in that house, on that land, drinking coffee from that front porch.

So, like any dreamer born with (or plagued with?) optimism, we called the number on the sign as we pulled out. We weren’t sure how much property was included, and maybe the inside of the house was a fixer-upper, rendering the price not galaxies out of our league financially, only universes.  One can dream, and God can move universes, after all.

“Uh, huh. Oh.Well, thanks so much, we’ll call you back if we’re interested.” I listened, waiting for the verdict.

“Guess,” he asked me.

“Just tell me already,” I said.

“Well, the good news is that is was dropped from 2.3 million (the silver lining). Bad news is its still 1.8. Comes with 90 acres.”

oh.

And despite the fact that the bank wouldn’t qualify us to live in the horse barn of that property, our wheels still were spinning (like I said, optimism can be a plague). Maybe we could rent the cabins for income. Maybe we could work a deal. Maybe we could sell a kidney . . . or two.

And then we come back to our one level 1600 square foot house, with it’s small backyard and three skinny trees, overlooking the apartments next door. I walk through the worn carpet that someone thought was a good idea to put in the bathrooms and under the kitchen table where children eat. I cram the girls clothes into their one dresser in their shared room which provides them with about four feet of total free floor space, and I become . . .

discontent.

If only we had that house with the 90 acres, the kids wouldn’t complain of being bored. That land would give them happy memories and knit our family strong. Horses and dogs and forests, this is what we want for their childhood. If only we had an extra place for guests, we could provide a restful place in Colorado for people that need a break, for our parents and siblings. If only we had that property, then we’d really be happy. 

And the thing I’m learning about dreams is that oftentimes they can be a dangerous breeding ground for lies. 

Because an acre or two of land (or 90 of them, even), the possession of this is no guarantee of “arriving,” of joy. If it takes a 1.8 million dollar property to make our hearts content, there’s a much bigger problem here than the fact that the bank would have a good laugh at the mortgage application. If my kids have to have horses and four-wheelers and a pond to not be bored, there’s a much larger issue at stake than the trouble we’d have acquiring (or maintaining) those things.

If I have to have more, or different, to be happy, then the fixation of a dream for that can sometimes fuel misery and, well, a terrible attitude.

And while I know that dreams can be a deeply good thing– things that drive us to believe big and pursue wild adventures and even taste God in new ways– they can also become a major stumbling block in our own daily joy. 

*****

We had eight little kids over last night. It was a “just because” party for our son, who hasn’t had a friend-party in three years, and goodlord needed one for his heart. And yes, there was pizza spilled on the carpet under the table. And, yes, six girls playing in my daughters’ room is even more crammed than two. And, yes, people had to take turns for the bathroom.

But, but.

It was a special night for us, for him–a deeply good few hours on many levels. We carried eggs in spoons, kicked soccer balls, and literally toasted to friendship with the classic cheap-kid dessert–pudding and gummy worms, a.k.a. “dirt in a cup.” He went to bed that night saying, “Mom, I’m really happy.” And all that goodness?

It happened in this house. In this yard. In the present. 

Apparently, Capture the Flag can be fairly epic on a fourth of an acre, too.

*******

Thoughts on dreams? Have they meant more good or more bad in your life? What are you dreaming of lately?

More: Guy in the Rice Field Never Read Wild at Heart  |  Knock Down, Drag Out   |  Soul and the American Dream

  • http://lukasavige.com Christine Lukasavige

    I love this post so much.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Oh, thanks, girlie.

      Was so thankful your smiling face was there last night and that your girl was part of that little huddle in the backyard!
      Love you guys, L

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Great post! I used to daydream about my ideal home and finally made myself stop and start thanking God for what I have…but a cottage by the sea would be lovely indeed. :)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      A cottage by the sea DOES sound lovely . . .
      :) Thanks for stopping in, and isn’t it the truth that GRATITUDE is the key component to contentment?

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ Angie Washington

    What?!?! Are you seriously telling me we can’t have everything we want?!?! No freaking way!?!?

    I know you already know this… but you are currently literally living in the “unattainable dream home” of the majority of the world.

    You make some very fine points in this piece. I absolutely LOVE that you threw a friend party for your son. Good job, Laura and Matt!

    Maybe I’ll come back with my instinctual cynicism on the topic of “dreams vs. nightmares” later after some more beautifully optimistic people like yourself have had a chance to comment. :-)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Yes, I so know that– I look at my Asian village friends and I am mortified that I would even begin to complain about, really, ANYTHING, in America.
      And yet, I do.

      Ugh.

      Oh, to learn the secret of being content . . .

      Love you, my traveling friend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessica.layton.129 Jessica Caldwell Layton

    Oh, the timing of this is quite perfect :) I myself have been struggling quite a bit in the discontented arena lately. Obviously the circumstances vary, as my dream would be to even have a place like the one you are currently inhabiting, yet it is discontent all the same. May we rest in the knowledge that God has us where he wants us, at least for this moment (easier said than done sometimes, right?). Your words are truly inspiring, as always :)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Isn’t it the truth that it almost doesn’t matter how “good” we have it, our natural tendency is still towards wanting the next best thing . . . the lie that the grass is greener and all that.
      Thanks for the kind words– and I ADORE your haircut, btw!

  • Gary Ware

    Good Morning, Laura,
    Your post is funny and appropriate.
    Connye and I went to sign our tax “return” to discover it was a tax “go away”. She was stunned and requested an explanation WHY we had to PAY. The explanation was clear and the young man was polite and helpful. Connye held herself together until we got into the elevator. Tears flowed and lunch was canceled. Paying the property taxes with our Return was canceled and the tears flowed. No painting our flooring this year either. I have learned to be quiet and NOT offer the standard clichés. There is a time for every thing including silence.

    We, also, have looked and walked through our “perfect home” on the lake and walked in the motorhome of choice. I sat in and enjoyed the leather of a private plane for six. No security lines or waiting rooms or restrictions.
    My dreams have carried me through many dark, tough, demanding DRY times. I use my dreams to encourage others to dream and dream BIG. Teaching Bible studies (home or church or business) can drain your soul when nothing seems to happen. So I dream many accept God and live long, healthy Christian lives bringing others to God. Church class rooms filled with all the material a teacher could desire to attract inquisitive minds.
    Dreams of praying for people on the street, in their homes, in retail stores and seeing them healed of illnesses, oppression, divorce trauma and their hoped restored in our Almighty God. My opinion of dreams that include a large home, with enclosed gym, therapy pool and guest house for grandchildren and parents is completely compatible with dreams of God flowing through me with New Testament miraculous activities.
    UNTIL then, I put the Lord’s yoke on my neck and just like the cattle on our farm, the grass is “green EVERYWHERE” I look. Our children are raising children with the same emotional struggles you mention. One set is living in a century plus year old home on a farm and the other in a much worn double wide home on a beautiful plot of land. Their children are happy, content, love God and their parents and are emotionally and spiritually happy.
    God wired us to provide the best we can for ourselves and family. Don’t fight it – In Fact – REACH FOR THE BEST you can do, Thanking our wonderful friend for all his goodness, mercy, provision and salvation. My friends, in Third World situations want improvements also. We all do.
    DREAM BIG, THEN LARGE, THEN LARGER!! IN JESUS NAME!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

    in my all time favorite book (of course, it is a 2nd grade read aloud, so that in and of itself may say something…) – the wheel on the school by meindert dejong – the teacher says: “Of course, if you just go on dreaming, then it stays a dream and becomes stale and dead. But first to dream and then to do – isn’t that the way to make a dream come true?”

    that, to me, is the purpose of a dream. it is to inspire and push me towards something better. while i might not be able to achieve a dream in a single fell swoop… i can take that next step and i can find those little pieces of my dream that i’m already living and experiencing in the here and now. sometimes, in the doing, i find that my dreams change and that’s okay, too, for God is shaping, molding and changing me. makes sense that those dreams might follow along.

    God’s Word does talk about contentment/discontentment – and i find it an interesting question. Paul says he’s learned to be content in whatsoever state… yet he also talks about longing for a better place. personally, dreams help me to bridge that dichotomy. i can choose and learn and practice and work for contentment in the present (and I don’t think it is supposed to be easy). i can also dream big and wild and let those dreams help inspire and motivate me to move towards the hope of a better and different future in this world (for others as well as for myself) and the promise of an amazing future (where even my most extravagant dreams will seem paltry) in the next world.

  • Tricia

    After having a $1.1 million dollar waterfront home with dolphins and manatees frolicking in the back, envious neighbors, a successful business, real estate investments, basically the American dream, I can say on the other side of it, I am so glad it’s all gone! I remember thinking at the time, “Wow, everything is going perfect for us now. That’s scary!!” And then the storm hit and we lost everything and more than we ever had.

    I always felt a twinge of something not being right whenever friends wanted a tour of our home, or we were just living the good life while other people not too too far away can’t even eat. Even before we built the dream home, my husband went on a mission trip to Kibera, Kenya, one of the biggest slums in the world, but we justified our lifestyle here at home because we gave and tithed a lot. But we still knew deep down that the way we were living didn’t give the right answer to the “WWJD” question.

    Now, after all the pain and suffering that came with losing it ALL (and still going through it 5 years later), we are so much closer to God and at peace with his plan for us in this world. We could never have truly been at peace had we continued to live that life, so we regularly thank him for stripping the materialism out of us. Funny, but I’m really enjoying our latest rental–a townhouse with no backyard, butted up against the neighbors, with an old kitchen with smelly cabinets; maybe 1300 sqft for all six of us. Not because I’m so spiritual, but because I’ve seen the other side of the false promises of happiness from material things and I now remember more easily how good I really have it. And realizing the opportunities that God is placing in front of us in this new place is making the stinky cabinets worth it!

    It’s all relative though because I’d like to think I’d be fine living in a hut with no A/C but I really don’t think I’m there yet. But God is good and he’s stepping us down gradually instead of sending us out on the street on our rear ends. :)

  • Terissa Miller

    Laura, I so often find myself in that same kinda discontent…yes, due to big dreams. Gargantuan, impossible, who-am-I-kidding kinda dreams. Dreams of flying to Kinshasa, Africa & finding little Benie…scooping her into my arms and finding a way to adopt her and the 30+ other little orphans with her. Dreams of the $10,000 its gonna require to even begin the process of finding & bringing home Daria Hope from Kazakhstan.
    Dreams of helping abandoned, orphaned Lyranda get accepted into a college here in CO, so I can continue loving & discipling her, as she transitions out of the Navajo Children’s Home.
    I get all mad & impatient with the waiting-on-God’s-timing; discontent with the mundane busy-ness of this present naval-gazing life.
    In a way – your blog, YOUR life-of-adventure is like that “for-sale” sign you guys saw…inspiring me to big visions, fueling my discontent for this empty American-dream life, opening my eyes to a calling that feels so far out of reach, only God can bring it to fruition.
    And I don’t suppose that’s a bad thing. Perhaps dreams & discontentment are pieces of a puzzle so grand & far-reaching, we can’t see the fullness of. The discontent with our present circumstances may well be God’s tool to move us along His path. Tho I suppose the challenge is to find contentment in the NOW, while pursuing, trusting, & waiting for the dreams to be fulfilled in His way, in His time.
    I dunno. Just thinkin’ on it…

  • http://twitter.com/mrsbigtopp mrs bigtopp

    ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him’ – something I struggle with is contentment.
    I have always been a daydreamer and yes, I find it my greatest temptation.
    I can be upset over a bad married-week and compare my husband to a ‘better version’ that I’ve dreamt in my head. I’ve dreams for the relationship I want to have with my kids and when we dont look like the Gilmore Girls (cross-gendered of course) I can cast dissapointment over them. I can daydream about life back ‘home’ and resent our new culture (we are missionaries in South East Asia) for robbing me of something that I didnt own anyway.
    I do see danger in dreams. But I am a dreamer -
    They say fiction writers are simply con artists and liars who have found a legal way to make money out of it. An outlet in a craft, if you will…
    What do you think? Can you dream of things that glorify God or is it something to rein in?
    I’d be interested in thoughts.
    (ps. love your blog. im always finding posts to share with people)

  • http://www.adoptionoverseas.blogspot.com/ Annie

    Hi Laura,

    I can remember a time when I have had this same dream! I used to go and tour houses and imagine the space available. I found the PERFECT 2500 sq ft home, with an upstairs for the teenagers, separate space for us parents, roomy kitchen and across the street was the neighborhood playground, pool and basketball court. I felt like I would cry because I wanted that house so much! Unfortunately for me, we really couldn’t afford to move. Still can’t. I finally had to stop looking, lol! :-) We are a family of 6 in a not quite 1500 sq ft home. Now, for some people that might seem a bit too cozy and for others would be a dream come true! Some dreams are often a matter of perspective and cultural limitations, aren’t they? Frankly, I have seen families here in our county live in tiny trailers. I have been overseas and seen how a family can function in a one room home. And I’ve realized, like you also did, joy happens right here in our cozy home! I can see right into my kids bedrooms from our “great room”. My teens are patient, good at sharing with the littles, and talk with me a lot, since I am literally right there! We have grown close because we don’t have the option to go into another wing of the house. God is good!

  • http://www.emilythomaswrites.com/ Emily

    Fantastic. So well said. I found myself agreeing with you out loud like we were at coffee or something!! :) Thank you.

  • Tracey Forrest

    I live in a 600 sq ft home, on an alley, with my 3 giant teenagers. It’s so easy to focus on sharing a room with my two daughters, or my son sleeping in the living room, so he can sort of have his own space, as being too little. I have to choose where to look – there, or at the fact that this single mom has a safe home 5 blocks from the beach in Southern California.

    It’s really as simple as being thankful.

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