words and images: Jessica Sowards
I often wake up in the night. Usually around 3 a.m., with no alarm screaming and no child tugging on my bed covers, I simply open my eyes to the still and silent darkness and am completely awake. I used to toss and turn, pick up my phone and waste the wee hours of the night scrolling through social media. The whole time, I would steep in frustration, knowing how tired I would be when the alarm and the children did make their demands.
I am a farmer. Only in the recent years of my life have I earned the ability to claim that title. For decades before we began to build our farm, though, it was my dream. I wanted it more than anything. I read books and organized Pinterest boards, imagining the day my dream might actually become reality.
Some people are just dreamers. They get dressed with phrases like “head in the clouds” by those that don’t understand. They make plans and have no thought of reasonable expectations or limitations. They are the ones that ultimately change the world, which they view as a blank canvas just waiting for their ideas and hopes to explode upon. And while it might be nice and neat to group these wild thinkers into a circle separate from the rest of the level-headed society, I have a theory that tells me I can’t do that.
I am a dreamer. The wild and reckless sort that has the faith to believe genuinely impossible things. And I sincerely believe, perhaps a belief that is, in itself, an impossible dream, that all people are made to be dreamers.
Now, before you write me off, hear me out. There was a season when I turned off my imagination. Because it made me feel discontent with reality. It made me scared of what might never be. That was back before I learned to dream with the One who imagined imagination, the Creator that made me in His image and told me to leverage His love into the earth.
I believe, with my whole heart, that we were all created in His image. Therefore, we were all created to imagine, to be fearless, to be hopeful and unlimited by what the world deems possible. I think sometimes things just feel too out of reach. We resolve ourselves to leave the desires of our hearts on the tall, high shelf and just look at them wistfully from time to time. We relegate our hearts to a place where we might be safe from disappointment, where if we don’t admit we want something then we can’t be sad about not having it.
This is not happiness. It is not contentment. This is giving up. This is a declaration that God needs us to dumb down our desires to make sure He can handle it. He can handle your dream.
Then there’s the fear of failure. I think sometimes, because of our own shortcomings, we become afraid. We turn off our imaginations and separate ourselves from the dreamers, and we create a place where we can feel safe from the possibility of making a mistake.
It is a mistake to stop dreaming.
A couple of years ago, during a cold and dreary winter just like this one, God switched on my imagination. He was able to because I decided to be bold enough to let Him. In the wee hours, I stopped being frustrated about being awake, and I started to plan and pray. These became my imagination hours. I decided that in the darkness and quiet of the night, I would not be contained by the limitations of the day. I planned out acres of farm that I did not have, plans for expansion that I could not afford. I asked Him what He wanted for my life and night after night, wide awake, I dreamed with God.
These winter months, when the temperatures are coldest, and my heart literally aches for the green of summer, my farm couldn’t look any deader. The garden that produced hundreds of pounds of food just a short six months ago looks completely barren. The goats are all dried up from milk, getting ready to kid in the spring. The horses, with their frosty fur, have reprieve from training and it’s far too cold for any of us to want to ride. The chickens hardly lay, and though the incubator will soon be loaded with eggs, it is now too cold to bother with fluffy, new chicks.
This is my dream. For years, I prayed. I cried over homesteading books in Barnes and Noble. I planned. Then, with a lot of patience and even more hard work, it became real life. I could hardly believe it. I no longer cried in bookstores but in chicken coops, overwhelmed as I was by the love of God.
Then the trials came, the testing of our resolve. I stood over freshly turned earth, full of sorrow over the life lost to my failures. I doctored animals, and they died anyway. I planted one hundred tomato plants too close together, and disease wiped them out halfway through the season. I lost my favorite doe to milk fever and my favorite dog to a speeding car.
Then the winter came. Year after year, like a wave I hadn’t quite gained the footing to stand against. Year after year, the beauty and abundance were stripped, almost strategically, from my farm and I was left with stinking mud and frozen water troughs. I came close to giving up more times than I can count. We rarely want to throw in the towel when things are fruitful, but in the trials and in the winter seasons, a girl can begin to lose her grasp.
There’s only one hope in these barely-hanging-on seasons when everything you’ve been promised looks dead as a doornail and you can barely remember the time when it was easy. These are the times, more than ever, that it is imperative to dream. Being bold enough to look past hopeless circumstances with strong faith that they won’t last forever is a kick in the face to hopelessness.
It takes a lot of courage to dream. It takes determination to keep going when you mess up. And it takes the experience that He can and He will surpass our wildest expectations to sit on a dead farm on an eight-degree winter night and write an article telling countless strangers to dream.
You may never have asked for a herd of dairy goats, but I know there’s a dream in you. There’s an imagination of some version of yourself, one that does things that feel impossible. Don’t put it on the top shelf. Be brave enough to say, “I want that.”
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t allow your brilliant mind to be switched off. Shake awake your imagination and tell it that it’s time to shine. Dream, with no limits. It’s who you were made to be.