when you say your dreams out loud.



November 8, 2013

I am in the shower, daydreaming as usual, taking full advantage of eight quiet minutes standing under hot water. Somewhere between combing minty conditioner through the ends of my hair and drizzling body wash all over my yellow loofa, I start thinking of writing ideas, book ideas, essay ideas, all kinds of ideas. And then my mind wanders to a concept I have toyed with for months, a nudge in my heart, a thought I cannot—for the life of me—get out of my head.

The idea starts taking shape a little more clearly, like a handful of playdoh forming into a ball.

This idea feels pressing, important, imperative to act on. I rinse the conditioner out, turn off the water, and step onto the bathmat. After twisting my sopping wet hair into a towel, I throw on a bathrobe and speak the dream out loud to my husband, who is sitting at the corner desk in our bedroom working on his computer.

“I want to make a website about motherhood,” I say confidently.


I want to make a website about motherhood. Like a blog or something. I want it to be pretty, but I want it to be about the writing. Real stories about motherhood.”

He smiles and says, “Cool, babe” before returning to his screen. I grab my laptop, sit down on the bed with a towel on my head, and send an e-mail to a handful of women who I know like to write.

A week later, I am sitting in my living room on the floor with two friends, three babies, and a dozen toys scattered around us. I say the dream out loud for the second time and ask, “What do you think about the name Coffee + Crumbs?”

They shrug.

“You know, it describes our days,” I continue, “It represents the dichotomy of calm and chaos.”

They both say they like it.

(Note: I had a few other ideas for names that I can barely remember now, but I think they were mostly terrible.)

A few days later, I e-mail the woman who owns www.coffeeandcrumbs.com and ask if I can buy the domain from her since she isn’t using it. She says she will consider selling it to me. I offer to pay her $100, but she never e-mails me back.


I want you to know something.

That thing you are reading right now, those words, those posts, that shop, those Facebook shares, that Instagram account, those writers, those readers, those feelings…..all of that was born during five uninterrupted minutes in the shower, followed by thousands of hours of hard work.

But I want to get back to the shower, because the shower is a really big part of the story. You see, I had the inspiration for Coffee + Crumbs before that day in the shower, but I never gave myself thirty seconds to form it into anything substantial. The idea had just been a lump of playdoh in my heart until that point, anxious for me to slow down and spend one minute holding it in my hand.

Before that day in the shower, I had never spoken the dream out loud.

I’ve had a lot of dreams that have died over time because I never gave them one full minute to develop. I simply let them fester, and stir, and then I piled laundry and dishes on top of them, and had two kids, and they were simply…..forgotten about.

Is this a cycle? Do you do this, too? Do women do this often? Do mothers do this the most? Do we keep dreams in our hearts like lumps of playdoh, never giving them a fair shot to be formed into anything substantial? Never showing them to anyone? Never speaking of these dreams out loud?

I understand the tension here. Our days are full to the brim with babies and diapers and goldfish crackers and trips to Costco and maybe a full-time job or a part-time job or a volunteer commitment or a community group. When we think about the fringe hours of our day, we can barely identify those hours because they are gone as soon as they come and we can’t even remember how we spent them. We wrapped a birthday present? We ate lunch over the sink? We scrolled Instagram and half-napped through an episode of Scandal? I don’t know where the time goes from Monday to Friday.

Pretty soon the weeks are turning into months and those months are turning into years and our dreams are slipping down the garbage disposal along with Tuesday’s moldy leftovers.


I want to encourage you today, from someone who is still in the process of turning her playdoh into something. Sometimes I wonder…..what if I had made a to-do list in the shower that day, as I often do? What if I had thought about all the ways I was failing as a mom? As a wife? As a friend? What if I had never sent that e-mail to those writers? What if this whole thing never happened? No site, no writers, no stories, no Huffington Post, no comments, anything? What if none of this ever got started? What if it was all just a literal dream?

Do you have a dream burning a hole in your heart?

Maybe you want to be a writer, maybe you want to start a blog, maybe you want to learn to paint. Maybe you want to open a bakery or maybe you want to sell jewelry or maybe you want to go back to school. Maybe you want to adopt, maybe you want to travel to India, maybe you want to start a nonprofit to serve a need in your community. Maybe you want to be a teacher, or a nurse, or a life coach, or maybe you want to start your own business and be a #girlboss. Maybe you want to write a book or record a song or start a podcast.

Do you think about these things in the shower? Do you wake up at 3am to a busy mind that can’t stop? Do you ever say your dreams out loud? Or do you cower and shrink behind those piles of laundry and watch other people chase their dreams with envy?

Here’s the thing: nobody is going to give you the quiet you need to form your playdoh. You need to give that to yourself. And you need to do it in prayer. And you need to do it now. Because the crazy thing is: when you silence your to-do list and pray for the Holy Spirit to form your playdoh, He Does. I believe this with my whole heart.

Your homework assignment for the week:

Pray for your playdoh.
Take a shower. Listen.
Leave a comment below with Your Dream.
Pray for the comment above you.

I am praying for every single one.


Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10

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36 Responses to when you say your dreams out loud.

  1. Julie says:

    What a lovely post. So much of it resonates with me. For years (!), I’ve nurtured a playdoh dream of starting a children’s book publishing company.

    • Ashlee says:

      Yes! Look at that! Tell me more! 😉

    • Becky says:

      Hi Julie. I’ve been wanting to write children’s books. Synchronicity brought me to this post. I’ve had it open for days and just hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Last night I could not sleep and grabbed my phone to jot down ideas for children’s books. It’s been my playdoh dream for quite some time now. I had several ideas that kept coming to me. Then this morning, after coming into work early because I couldn’t sleep…..I read this post. And lo and behold, your comment was the first I saw. A children’s book publishing company. I think the universe it trying to tell me something. Prayers to you and your playdoh dream. And prayers and thanks to you Ashlee for this post.

  2. Ashlee, sometimes when I read your blog posts, I wonder if we were separated at birth. The shower is where all my best ideas take shape, including the one I had to start a podcast about music therapists who are balancing their work with motherhood.

    During my shower this morning (as I listened to my husband calm my 5-month-old and prayed that my 2-year-old would sleep just a little longer), I came up with a concrete plan for another idea that I’d been struggling to implement.

    It’s so nice to know I’m not alone, a fact I’m reminded of every time I read your blog and Coffee + Crumbs. Thank you for sharing your gifts!

  3. Victoria B says:

    Showers are amazing places for relief and brainstorming and letting your mind run wild! I think water is the key, as a relaxing swim in the pool or time by the sea can have similar effects. I have a dream to help women make their own souvenir cookbooks and I too came up with the idea in the shower.

  4. Cristina says:

    I’ve been shoving my dreams into the shadow for the past year because of two reasons. Fear of failure, and lack of confidence. I’m a life coach. But I’m also a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a baker, a worrier, a jokester, a human being, and within a month I will be adding mother to my life resume. I’ve never been a fan of having to choose a “niche” for my services. Until one day it hit me (and probably in the shower). My calling is to work with people who are just like me. People always say “you can’t do it all”. Well, in my opinion, you can. It’s just all about balance. Everyone gets lost, everyone gets stuck, and everyone loses hope here and there. I want to be that person that helps them get out of the quicksand to design the life they want.
    I’m praying and wishing the best to my fellow lady readers here 🙂

  5. Ruth says:

    important words as always, Ash! loved reading this post so much. playdoh is the perfect analogy – there’s the inspiration of the dream and then there’s the making of the dream – messy, unscripted and full of possibility. have you read elizabeth gilbert’s Big Magic and brene brown’s rising strong? their themes and yours are ringing through my life this week.

    my dream: 1. to run an international relief agency, 2. to write a book about work, motherhood, and social impact.
    Ruth´s last blog post ..January Book Club: Date Night In

  6. This post… it brought me to tears. Tears because I could relate, tears because I’m not sure what my dreams are, tears because I know I have dreams but haven’t taken the time to acknowledge them. Thank you, thank you for giving me a push to think on my dreams and to say them out loud.
    Brittany Deal´s last blog post ..How Climb Out of a Funk

  7. Becca says:

    Showers forever. Screw the drought.

    My dream is to publish a prayer journal. Something that helps women to dig deep into intimacy with their Father and does not have a soft-focus rose on the cover. 😉

  8. michelle says:

    you are an inspiration to all of us xoxo

  9. Ashley says:

    This inspired me so much. I am literally doing all of those things you asked us to do tonight.

    This post came at such a perfect time for me. My job is ehhh, my goals to move into an apartment by February had to be put on hold and I am really interested in creative writing + art stuff once again. I am unable to go to college because I have a math learning disability that only 5% of the world has and colleges are not equipped to help people like me.

    So my dream is to find something I truly love to do and have a career in it. I have no idea what that thing is. But I pray that I find it.
    Ashley´s last blog post ..new direction.

  10. anon says:

    Going back to school for my family NP. Moving to a rural town. Struggling with this as it burns a hole in my heart since it would likely mean the end of a marriage (he can’t live in a small town due to his career among other things).

  11. Sonya says:

    For years I held my dough in my hand –a burning desire to write– but doubt and fear paralyzed me from doing anything. After taking a class at my church last year (the Significant Woman), I decided to try, realizing this longing in my heart was bigger than me. Where it goes, I don’t know. I’m still working on the writing. But I’ve never been happier being obedient.
    * My dream is to authentically share my journey, through grief and hurt, into a deep love of Jesus and his grace… through writing, and (maybe???) speaking.

  12. Katie Pilskog says:

    I love taking pictures and really want to learn how to use my canon camera my husband bought me for my birthday to take better pictures of my family! I would love to learn how to be more of a DIY person around my house. (Those cabinets would look so nice painted!). I want to develop a realistic stay at home mom fitness plan for myself and follow it. I would really love to use my passion and experience as an early childhood special educator and mommy to write essays or a blog or a book.

    Thank you for asking! It has been fun to think of a response today in between building forts, reading library board books, and teaching my little guy to dip toast into his soup. 🙂

  13. Ashley says:

    Thank you, Ashlee. I always feel motivated and inspired after a post from you, and while I don’t have a specific dream, the homework to pray for a dream is wonderful. You’ve inspired me to dream of a dream =) xo

  14. Well this is just beautiful. You are truly one of the most driven, inspiring people I know, and I love being both in your corner as you soldier on and on your team as a writer. Your friendship ain’t a bad addition to those things, either. Thanks for being so brave and beautiful both in your words and your actions. Love you Ashlee Gadd.

  15. Marisa says:

    I love this essay and that you continue to empower women with your work. You’re amazing.

  16. Sara says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m in my first trimester of pregnancy, but this made me really emotional, lol. Thank you so much for writing this with such heart and beauty and truth. My playdoh was starting a blog about my faith and being a mother for the first time. I’ve been writing for just over a year now. I guess where my struggle lies is staying encouraged and hopeful when this beginning and growing has been so, so slow and sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever get this little corner of the internet of mine to grow as much as I hope it will. But thank you for the reminder to have faith in the One who is in charge of growth (in more ways than one). 🙂
    Sara´s last blog post ..lanterns and donuts with a toddler.

  17. Caroline says:

    I love everything about this. Thanks for your encouraging words, Ashlee!

  18. Clare says:

    I want to start a one-stop website and newsletter with resources to all the local food outlets in our community. Been thinking about it a lot lately. I have two little boys about the same ages as yours, so yes, hard to “give time” to something extra but I know I can do it! Thank you for writing this and I so admire what you’ve done with your blogs!

  19. Callie says:

    I love this. I truly love it. I’ve been dreaming about selling my biscuits and saving all the money I’ve made to donate to a charity. I’m just a bit lost how to start.

  20. Oh, Ashlee! Your blog has been one of the biggest inspirations to let my playdoh actually become a reality. And reading Coffee + Crumbs makes me determined to take charge of these “pre-kid” years to do things and not just waste them. All that being said, last night I launched a design freelance website! Who knows what it’ll become, but it’s the first step in turning playdoh into a reality. Have a great Monday! I sure am!

  21. Shawna says:

    I recently decided to take my personal blog to one more fashion and style-focused and it has been scary, and thrilling, and scary again, and exciting, and then scary and exciting again. Needless to say I’ve been a glass case of emotions these past two weeks. So I wanted to thank you for putting to paper (computer screen?) a good old-fashioned pep talk, one that I so needed in this moment. You are a beautiful writer. Congratulations to you for taking the time form your play dough and for living out your dreams.

  22. Stephanie says:

    Well I have been reading this blog for some time now. Never commented before… I, like you, have two kids relatively similar in age and have come to call this blog a home for my soul at times. You have been a huge “like” mom to me and I feel not so alone at times. Thank you for all you do. I have not been over to Coffee & Crums yet. I will try to check that out. My Dream… To be a Stay at Home & Move to Washington with my Hubby & Two kids. Follow our dreams we say. We have a plan and in about a year I think the dream will come true. You see I started a business 13 years ago and its successful and I have a hard time walking away. But I am going to sell it and be where my Soul wants to be. I am going to be a Stay at home mom and live far away from my home in Cali. It will be amazing, I hope! Until then I work at home and am mostly with my family but I do have work and I do not get the time I want with my Family. Thank you for your challenge! Steph

  23. Kristin says:

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. I’ve been wanting to finish my bachelors degree for a while now. My two little kids have been among my many excuses. I just emailed an admissions counselor after reading your post. Thanks.

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  25. Molly says:

    I love this. Hallelujah for those 8 minutes in the shower!
    My dreams are all super basic and/or survival oriented. One day, when I can figure out the technological side of things without getting overwhelmed, I’d love to start a blog. I don’t have any grand ideas about it going anywhere far or really of many people ever coming across it, but it’s something I feel I need to do for myself. To keep my sanity and to have somewhere to unload my brain when it gets crowded.
    My other, more immediate dream is to get my household back on track! I have a thousand and one things on my to do list, one of which is to do some iron-clad baby-proofing, but I never find the time to complete any of them. I’m in survivor-mode, waiting for nap time or for my husband to take over so I can get some time not spent rescuing my almost toddler from choking on something or pulling something down on top of herself or falling and bumping her head…When those breaks finally come it’s all I can do to stay awake long enough to drink a cup of coffee that barely does its job, let alone re-clean the house or baby proof or make a grocery list…or start a blog! So dream #1 is to find a stronger brand of coffee and then find the time to make and keep to a schedule that will leave me and our home feeling more organized!

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