When I was around nine or ten years old, my mother told me she’d buy a horse for me if I saved enough money to pay for a saddle. She didn’t look at a tack shop that would have most likely had something more reasonable and better made. She pointed to the Sears catalog and told me that was the goal. As memory serves, it was around $200. An impossible fortune for a young girl who had no allowance, lived isolated on a farm with no transportation to get any sort of menial work. But Mom underestimated my desire and determination.
On the weekends of the school year, and every day during summer vacation, I scoured the ditches of roads and lanes miles around my house. At two cents a bottle, I found every pop and beer bottle in a two mile radius around my farm on foot with a paper bag to transport them home. One day I struck the mother lode. Most likely some teens had been drinking on the back roads and had to ditch an entire case of beer in order to not get caught. They had drunk enough to get sick, however, which made the discovery a mixed blessing. I dragged the case home (I did not have a wagon), washed off the vomit, emptied the rest of the bottles and collected my reward. My saddle jar was looking good.
I dared to dream a horse would be mine.
The money adding up made the adults nervous. It looked like I’d actually reach my goal. There was no excuse about lack of room, since we lived on a forty acre farm. I was chipping away the excuse of having tack. So they came up with a plan. Convince me to put the money in the bank to accrue interest. Of course, not a separate bank account to be able to track progress. Put it in my so called college account. I trusted these people. I followed their advice. The money disappeared and the horse never materialized. In fact, about eight years later Mom took that money and purchased some worthless land in Arizona as a retirement investment. That money did not go to any sort of education for me, nor did the land ever get used for her retirement. In her dementia, she had quit paying taxes on the lot and it went back to the county.
That’s what happened to my dream.
Recently, I dared to dream again. I dreamt that I could have an art studio that would be big enough to create in, have storage, hang art in, have classes in, fellowship in, and worship in. A creative worship studio on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. Something dedicated to both art and prayer. I talked it over with Mike. I made the pitch that it made more sense owning a property rather than paying rent every month for something too small and gave us no value in return. He was on board. We set a budget (albeit small) and started looking.
I dared to dream that things that had been spoken into my life would come to pass.
The realtor I was working with was great and on board with the vision. We looked at a lot of properties. The market is currently overheated and people looking at houses were offering far more than they were worth. Nonetheless, our plan was to steadily and patiently look and not be in a rush. But the political situation affected the markets and suddenly we were no longer in a position to purchase anything. I had dared to share the dream with others, asking them to pray. I had dared to share the dream with the realtor, wasting so much of her time. I had dared to believe the dream could come true.
I could take this failure deep into my heart and decide that dreams aren’t for me. But don’t underestimate my desire and determination. I am taking to heart the quote by Paul Tillich. “He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.”
I will continue to dare to dream.
It was 8 a.m. and I was sitting in a local park, listening to the birds call back and forth. While scientists have ascertained that what they are really doing is proclaiming their territory (essentially saying, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”), I prefer a more poetic view of their melodious work.
Birdsong brings relief
to my longing
I'm just as ecstatic as they are,
but with nothing to say!
Please universal soul,
practice some song
The poem turns into a prayer. “Please Lord, practice Your song, Your love, Your joy, Your artistry through me.” As I pray this, my thoughts turn to the Psalms, which are prayers turned into poetry. Learning them has been a good way to increase my prayer vocabulary. What do the Psalms say about birds singing? “The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches,” Psalm 104:12. They are singing in earnest this morning.
The singing birds, the lush green park, the summer morning mist continue my meditations toward the psalms. “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life," Psalm 148:3.
Worship and poetry entwined.
Later in the week, I returned to that prayer. “Please Lord, practice Your song, Your love, Your something through me.” This was as I was approaching a restaurant to meet a friend who was grieving. I wanted to serve the Lord well, and my friend well. What I thought would be an hour or two, ended up being an entire day of loving service as we went to a park, talked about loss, had ice cream, lost her keys, and retraced all our steps.
As I was driving home, I realized that God had taken me up on my prayer. What I think is important to do (projects, generally), is not as important in His economy. A grieving heart in need of comfort and company was His plan for that day. What if I had not made myself available to Him to practice His song of love? He would have found another way to bring comfort, but I would have lost a valuable experience and lesson. I would not have been God's song.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.