When You Have No Dreams: Harvesting Hope Out of Ambiguity

Grace: what’s your dream?

Last week my co-workers asked me this while we were all eating lunch. The day was hot and humid, and mosquitos buzzed in my ear and bit at my ankles. As I swatted the bugs away, my co-workers shared what dreams they had for their future.

Go to seminary.

Do music at a church.

Minister and mentor young men.

Teach at a college.

Later that day, the topic of dreams came up again. My roommate and I were talking about our families when she asked me: “Do you dream of being a mom?” I laughed at the question, probably because this one I can literally say “no” to. Unlike many of my friends (all who really, actually want to be moms one day), I have never sleep-dreamed of having children. Apparently many women have actual dreams in their sleep about being pregnant, giving birth, or being a mom. Me? Not so much. Nope — I just have dreams where it’s suddenly my wedding day and I don’t know who I’m marrying or I do know who I’m marrying and wonder how the heck I’m marrying this person that in my dream I very much do not want to marry!

“What are my dreams?” I wondered as my co-workers waited expectantly, as my roommate waited for my answer, too. Both times, my brain went blank. Eventually, I knew I had to share. To my co-workers I said, “All I want from the future is the time to do what I want to do.” To my roommate I said, “I value family. That’s as much as I know.”

In both these moments when I was asked about the dreams I had for the future, I had a hard time giving any kind of definitive answer. In short, I couldn’t articulate my dreams because I was unsure I even had something to articulate.

I couldn’t articulate my dreams because I was unsure I even had something to articulate. 

For a person who loves dreams and loves writing about people’s dreams (I mean, I have a whole side project devoted to this very topic, and I’ve written 2 plays whose themes center around the idea of dreams), I found myself coming up short with things to share about my own goals, ambitions, and life-long dreams.

When I try to imagine myself 5 years from now, it’s a blurry picture. As I went to bed after that day of being asked about my dreams, I asked myself, “Is it bad that I cannot see?

I laid my head to rest. While I slept, I had no dreams.


A couple days after my co-workers and I had the conversation about our dreams, an important business person came into our office for a meeting. As they talked to one of my co-workers, she asked them about their life and business. They said the following, something that continued to stir up something inside of me that was trying to work through what seemed to be an absence of dreams in my life.

They said this:

“All I used to want to was a kingdom to call my own, but now I just want a garden.”

When I heard this individual say this, my mind began to race. I’ve never even thought to myself, “I want a kingdom. I do not dream of being the best, of winning a medal or a prize, of being a manager, of gaining followers or a blue check mark on Twitter. I don’t have a list of things I want to accomplish before I’m thirty. Heck, I don’t even have a list of things I want to accomplish this year!

I’m sure many leaders, writers, and others would tell me not having a clear plan is not the best use of my time. Be intentional. Set goals. Seek purpose. And none of that is bad advice, but what does that look like when you’re not a big-picture person?

“All I used to want to was a kingdom to call my own, but now I just want a garden.”

I can’t tell you what dreams I have for my future. I know I don’t want a kingdom, an audience, a brand, a social media publishing schedule.

What I can tell you is this: what kind of future I hope for.

I hope for a future where time is not the enemy, where my table is a welcoming place and the chairs are filled with people both familiar and unknown, where my spirit is nourished and ‘hustle’ is not the theme of my life. I hope for a future where my name is known by my nieces and nephews and my next-door neighbors and that’s about it. I hope for a future where I feel like myself.

And I hope for one more thing in my future.

I hope for a garden.

Literally — I’d like a tiny patch of soil to plant things in. It doesn’t have to be big. The soil doesn’t even have to be good. I can work with it. I want a place where things may grow, a place from which I may be fed and where I get to feed others, too, if they come by. A place where just a few patches of flowers may grow so that I can pick them and put in a vase by the kitchen sink. A place where my fingernails get dirty and sweat beads on my brow.

When I try to imagine this garden I write of, or who will eat its crop, or where it will be, I still cannot see it. It’s still a blurry picture. But this time, I am not afraid that I cannot see it.

I cannot see my garden, but I already know things about it.

I know that my garden will sometimes produce a great crop: delicious, bountiful, full of flavor. These will be the good seasons. And sometimes the weather will not be on our side, and the bugs will get the tomatoes, and the ground will be inhospitable and the sun too strong. These will be the seasons where my basket will be empty, my yield, small. These will be the seasons when I wait, when I hope, when I remember past harvests.

But in both seasons in the future garden I imagine, it is my hope that I will give thanks — give thanks for my garden, my little postage stamp of native soil, for the chance to plant and water and grow and eat and celebrate the scarcity and the abundance of it all. I hope that I will give thanks to the original Gardener, for Him giving me my own garden here to work in, to live in, to be the keeper of for this short time.

I will be try to be the keeper of my garden in the way He is the keeper of me: with patience, with creativity, with an understanding of the past, and with a joy for the future.


The next time someone asks me what my dream is, I now know what I can tell them.

“I hope for a garden.”

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