I can hardly remember the last time I just couldn’t put a book down. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure it was back when I was in high school and fighting my brother for my turn with the single copy we owned of the most recent Harry Potter installment. Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream, released last week, is unspeakably better (and better still, it is real – honest and true stories of real life people!).
I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours, with two kids, aged three and under, and despite being pregnant and tired. My husband and I were headed out, kids in tow, for a retreat weekend. I learned in advance that we’d be sharing a room with our kids. Our travels as a missionary family have taught me enough to know that sharing a room with kids means that the lights go out and 8pm and I either hide out in the bathroom (the only place to use light), or fall asleep by 9pm. In preparation for the weekend, I downloaded Jennifer’s new book to my kindle. Despite the fact that both kids took an extraordinarily long time to fall asleep (as in, the toddler didn’t go to sleep/stop talking to me until nearly three hours after her normal sleep time and the younger toddler didn’t fall asleep much before the chatterbox), I finished half the book the first night. I forced myself to sleep because I knew the kids would be up at the crack of dawn (accurate) and I’d need the sleep.
I both laughed out loud (and nearly woke sleeping kids) and cried more times that first night than I could count. The next day, I took every spare moment I could to keep reading, with even more laughs and tears. I felt like I’d just met up with an old friend and found out that we had far more in common than I ever knew before, and all I wanted was to hang out with her. A few of her stories I remember reading about on her blog, so it truly felt like jumping in the story right alongside somebody I already ‘knew’, at least in some sense.
There is so much in Jen’s book that I relate to, so many similar lies that I’ve bought into. Why bother writing? Why bother blogging? Why bother making saint peg dolls? I’ve got little ones at home, this isn’t the time. I also completely related to her following her ‘blue flame’ and then finding out, time and again, that she was pregnant. I had just – and I mean just – opened my Etsy shop after much debate and tearing apart my pegs and why they aren’t good enough to sell, when I found out that baby #3 was on the way. It didn’t take long for the thoughts to roll in, well, I should just close up shop now. Clearly this is a sign that my peg dolls suck and I shouldn’t even bother trying to sell them. (I haven’t closed up shop because (1) blue flame! (2) those are all lies and (3) painting the pegs brings me life, joy, and fulfillment and that all makes me a better mom, wife, and, I believe, person.)
Reading this book truly felt like spending time with an old friend and having one of those, “hey, you TOO?!” moments when, at long last, you realize this deep struggle of your life isn’t something you are alone in. So often we buy into the lie that if we want “more” than “just” motherhood, then we are failing as mothers. We let ourselves believe that to desire something that is fulfilling outside of mothering is selfish and makes us worse mothers. Jen’s stories – told in such a vivid way that I feel like I was right there for each of them, a fly on the wall of her life – gave me hope, hope that not only am I not alone in having such desires but also hope that having my own dreams and desires does not make me a terrible mother.
Perhaps it is simply where I’m at in my life right now, a missionary wife, due later this year with baby number 3 while still attempting my hand at this whole Etsy business, or perhaps it is that there is some deep truth in what Jen writes (I’d go with the last option), but this book was more than worth the read. Honestly, I finished it and I already know that I’ll be returning to it again and again for encouragement and the loving reminder that God does not give us dreams for nothing, all that remains is to ask Him how He wants (us) to bring them to fulfillment.