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By Hannah Bemis

A few years ago I watched a documentary called The Sea In Between (2013) about the singer/song-writer Josh Garrels. I wasn’t very familiar with Garrels at the time, and I was impressed by his mission, his heart, and the uniqueness of his music. When he started his career, he and his wife did just about all of their own marketing, designing, producing, scheduling, and touring. In my favorite scene, he and his wife are shown stamping logos by hand on CD covers while his three young children are running all around them in a general aura of chaos. Garrels, in a voice-over, says something brilliant, something that has stuck with me longer than any other part of the documentary: “You can do anything with kids. It’s just a lot harder.” These words, which were by no means the central message of the film, nestled themselves in a deep place of my heart, and they haven’t left. They gave me permission to dream again in a way I hadn’t dreamed since the first few weeks of motherhood when I held a precious but screaming infant in my arms and realized taking care of this child was quite possibly going to take all of me.

I have always had massive, undefined dreams. I blame the Christian band Delirious. When I was in middle school at a summer church camp, I heard the lyrics “I’m gonna be a history maker in this land. I’m gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind.” I took those words and applied them to myself literally one hundred percent. I was absolutely going to change the entire world, and it didn’t matter how or by what vocation it was done. I just wanted to make the biggest stamp possible on the kingdom of God. I felt the power and pleasure of God as I made plans to grow up and have a career in doing so much good and changing so many lives. The means by which this would be done was somewhat irrelevant and changed often: hairstylist, doctor, journalist, author, speaker, counselor, school counselor, teacher, social worker, pastor, missionary, and mother. Always mother. It never occurred to me to wonder whether it would be hard to be a mom while also changing the world. I just saw myself doing it.

Then I actually had kids. I held the aforementioned screaming son in my arms and felt so much love but also so much bewilderment about how anything else would ever get done in the face of this new, all-encompassing occupation of being a mother. How would I change the world when I couldn’t even manage to change the laundry or the sheets…when I couldn’t manage to change anything other than the 77 diapers that were piled high in my trash?

As my screaming son began screaming a little less frequently, it seemed like a good time to have another baby, which – surprise! – turned out to be twins, and in the midst of more diapers and laundry and PBJs and reading stories and wiping tears and doing little side jobs to make extra money, the laying down of my dreams happened without my even noticing. It wasn’t this dramatic, painful experience where I gave up the career of my dreams because I had never dreamed of anything so simple or so specific as a career. I took to heart what I read in other mommy blogs and what God confirmed within me, that I was changing the world through the three lives I was shaping daily. And let me be clear: I believe wholeheartedly that mothering (parenting rather) is changing history. If a body never does a single thing more than be a fantastic parent, he or she has done a miraculous, world-altering thing. But as I searched my own heart and went back to the early days of my adolescent, undefined dreaming, I’d always imagined changing the world as a mother and as…something else. For me, motherhood was part (probably the biggest part) of the dream, but not all.

When I heard Josh Garrels speak the words that you can do anything with kids, I realized that at some point along the way I had stopped believing that. My husband and I had taken our dreams of living overseas or going on grand adventures and put them away for “the day the kids are out of the house.” I had taken my own dreams of writing a book and shrunk them into sporadic blogs or social media posts that were more doable with kids running around. I had relinquished what I now believe were God-given dreams of changing the world and laughed them off as delusions of grandeur. And maybe these things were meant to be put away for a season. I know God has done great work in me over the past eight years of motherhood. I’ve died to self in a way that I needed to, in a way in which only being a mother could have helped me do. But while there is something beautiful and right about parents putting their children before themselves and letting their own selfishness be burned away by the fires of parenthood, I think we should be very careful that the only thing being burned away is our selfishness. In the dying to self that is God-designed, we should watch to make sure that our God-given dreams do not die in the process.

Maybe my dreams were meant to be put away for a while or maybe they were accidentally stuffed in the closet in a way they didn’t need to be. Either way, something is stirring within me now. I hear God whispering that the time has come to dream a little bigger. I hear the same truth echoing in the words Josh Garrels spoke, that I can do anything with kids. It will certainly be harder with them along for the ride, but weren’t they part of the dream from the beginning? And Garrels’ claim is no bolder than the one found in my own Bible that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. When it is God-breathed and God-given, no dream, defined or undefined, is unattainable. I believe it’s time for some of us (certainly for me) to revisit and reclaim those dusty dreams that we put away in the name of kids, or bad health, or finances, or a million other things. My own dreams are still messy, vague, and maybe much too large, but they are mine, and the time has come to air them out and see what happens.

About The Author

Hannah Bemis

Hannah Bemis lives in Spokane, Washington, with her husband, Jordan, and their three kids. She works as both a mom and as a private tutor, and loves writing about what God reveals to her through the chaotic and mundane events of everyday life. She and her family attend Turning Point Open Bible Church, also in Spokane.