When I was in high school, I carpooled one evening with a group of kids to hear a speaker at our church’s college ministry at the university nearby. We did this sort of thing often, escaping our little town by attending church events intended for college students. Most of us were tiring of the fun but repetitive messages we were hearing in our church youth groups. And being on campus made us feel grown-up. We piled into an auditorium, the same room where I’d attend an American history class years later. A friend, a girl I knew well, sat to my left. A boy, a friend of my brother’s, to my right. I didn’t know anything about the boy, really, other than he was popular and quiet.

After a worship service, the speaker took the stage.

Photo of Emily

His topic for the evening was dreams. Not the sleeping kind, but the awake kind, the wild kind, the impossible kind, the kind that makes me ache with equal amounts fear and hope. He asked each of us to take out a piece of paper and write down two dreams we had for our lives: one that feels possible and one that feels impossible. He instructed us to share our dreams with the person sitting next to us. I turned in my squeaky auditorium seat towards my friend, and we shared our dreams with each other. We aren’t friends anymore, but I still remember the beautiful impossible dream she shared with me. I glanced to my right and wondered what the quiet boy was dreaming of.

Ten years later, the quiet boy is my husband and I can’t remember the possible dream I wrote on my paper. I do remember the impossible one, though.

I’ve had so many dreams come and go throughout my life. The first one I can remember having was my childhood dream to become a princess. I once met a man in Uganda who told me that you can tell a lot about people by the dreams they had when they were little children. The biggest dreams are the ones that never leave me.

I’m not ashamed of my little dreams. I’m not embarrassed that I’ve always wanted wooden hangers in my closet or a clawfoot bathtub, or to be able to play the guitar. I like my little dreams. But it’s the big ones that stay with me. Through seasons of pain and beauty and growth and change, my little dreams are always coming and going, but the big ones rest safely in my chest.

Photo of Emily

Dream Big

Dream Big is one of the most joyous, fun, and hopeful “self-help” books I’ve ever read. This is my third time reading it, for the plain reason that it’s full of gold that you simply cannot catch all in the first reading. You’ve probably heard of Bob Goff; his two previous publications, Love Does and Everybody, Always, are both New York Times bestsellers. Goff’s radical positivity and tendency towards hope makes his writing inviting and fun. I mean, the cover of the Dream Big hardback is designed to be morphed into a paper airplane, if that tells you anything about Goff’s childlike spirit.

Goff has lived a wild life, and his experiences make stories that are both inspiring and entertaining to read. Through thoughtful questions, Dream Big encourages readers to figure out what they want, why they want it, and what they’re going to do about it. Goff instructs readers to get honest about the things they want in life and not to waste time with dreams they think sound good or noble, but aren’t genuinely theirs. I love how clear and simple his writing style is, it isn’t convoluted or overwhelming. He explains big concepts with simple and approachable language.

Goff doesn’t shy away from writing about his spiritual beliefs, but allows them to flow naturally and genuinely through his writing in a way that doesn’t feel forced. This book is a tool, not a formula. That’s what makes this book so special. Dream Big is a paradigm shifter, a perspective changer; it isn’t a 10-step program, but rather an invitation to consider life from a new angle. Its contents are applicable to a variety of situations, dreams, and life stories. It isn’t just for entrepreneurs or recent college graduates. It’s for anyone, in any season. If you are looking for something that will challenge you to dream big, hope more, and forget the status quo, this book is for you.

Thanks for reading about my book pick for week 1 of my series on Dreaming. For weekly email updates about what’s new on the blog, join my email newsletter below.

Photos by Kara Buse.

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On Beauty and Motherhood

I put on makeup every day for 30 days. I didn’t wear makeup every day before I had my daughter, so I surely didn’t prioritize it after she was born. One day in January, I realized that I liked how I felt when I wore makeup, so I thought I would conduct a little experiment. I wanted to see how it would make me feel to wear it every day for 30 days. Depending on the results, I may consider making a concerted effort to wear it daily.

My Top 10 Reads from 2023

I read some pretty phenomenal books in 2023— some of which will go on my list of all-time favorites. My top ten is dominated by nonfiction, yet funnily enough, novels hold the top two spots on my list. Five of the ten are memoirs, revealing a particular preference I have for that genre right now. In general, my reading ratios are 1 novel: 1 memoir: 1 additional nonfiction. I want to read more fiction this year.

Project Emily Advent: Day 25

My maternal grandfather, Papa, was a great and wild soul. He was particularly close with my sister, Bailey. He loved all of his grandchildren, and made a particular effort to show up in each of our lives. But Bailey was Papa's best girl. He was totally smitten with her. He was a friendly and warm person, but he could be bristly at times, and Bailey seemed to be the only person undeterred by his bad moods. She was every bit his equal in fortitude and stature of personhood.

Disclosure (Let’s be honest)
This website contains posts with affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you purchase a book I’ve linked— at no extra cost to you. I’ll always be upfront with you when a post is sponsored or a book is gifted. All books I recommend are books I actually read and enjoyed.
No joke.