My heart ached to hear this question. It literally gave me a thud in my stomach. A woman's days of dreaming big dreams over? Absolutely not!
Of course I didn't shout this out. Instead, I answered by saying: "In some of these same courses that I teach, sprinkled among the shining 20-year-old faces, you'll also find a few women in their 30s, 40s and sometimes 50s who are returning to college to realize a new dream they have for their life."
I told her about Betty, a woman in her early 50s, who always wanted to be a nurse. With her two children recently married, she lives in an empty nest with her husband and is returning to the classroom to make her dream come true. And she's loving every minute of it.
"I turned our dining room into my study," Betty told me. "I just love learning all of this stuff."
I can remember another woman, a bit older than Betty, who had always been interested in the history of Europe. She came back to college for a second degree, 45 years after earning her first one.
On the first day of class, as we went around the circle to introduce ourselves, she said she couldn't remember what she majored in the first time. The students howled, but she laughed the loudest. And why not, she was pursuing a dream.
Nearing her graduation she rewarded herself with a wonderful European trip accompanied by a dozen of her young classmates on a semester abroad. It was the first of several trips she's now chaperoned with the teaching professors.
Too late for a woman to dream? Never!
HOLD FAST Now, I understand that almost all of us in the second half of life have regrets. We have opportunities we may have passed up. Doors we closed too soon. Poor choices that curtailed our options. Or life's circumstances that were out of our control.
That's life. But does this mean we are forever walled off from dreaming big dreams? I'm here to tell you that the eventual pain that results from not dreaming—for fear of being disappointed by an unrealized dream—will always eclipse the pain of a dream that never comes true.
Why? Because a big dream almost always leads us to something good that we never would have experienced without our dream.
Consider some of the dreams women have recently told me:
These are big dreams. I think most of them will be successful. But if not, they will have enjoyed the satisfaction of trying and nobody can criticize them for that.
What yearning and passion has God placed in your heart? What do you dream about? I hope you'll give this question serious consideration if you haven't already.
Carl Sandburg, one of my favorite poets, said, "There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud." I know just what he meant.
Sometimes I feel steady and strong, sometimes worried and weak. The difference? It has to do with dreams.
The older I get the more I notice that my strength, my energy is directly correlated to my dreams. The more confidently I pursue them, the stronger I feel. But the moment I let a dream die, I feel that eagle within me giving way to the hippopotamus.
I had a recent dream that energized me for a while. I was invited, along with several others, to help cast a new and updated vision for the overall ministry in our local church. I felt affirmed. I was excited.
I prayed about it. Wrote down some of my thoughts. Talked to others.
I had something to contribute. And I did contribute. But not long into the process of crafting a new vision for our established church it became apparent that the old, entrenched "we've-always-done-it-this-way" attitude of the gatekeepers was going to prevent any new and creative ideas from having a fighting chance.