Perhaps you recall the editorial from our January issue where I talked about choosing “one word” to live by in 2017, and perhaps you chose your own. My word for this year is “fearless” and, with the help of an 11-year-old, I am finding out just what it means for me.

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen was a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

Let’s back track a bit to late 2016. Every Wednesday, for several months, I devoted an evening to coaching a group of kids in preparation for our state dairy quiz bowl competitions in January.

Dairy bowl was a passion of mine as a youth, and when our own kids expressed interest in the “sport” three years ago, I jumped at the chance to pour my love for dairy knowledge into them. This past year, I was excited to see our small group growing with the addition of a couple of new faces.

One of those was a sixth-grader named Kevin. He caught on quickly to the basic questions, like “What do you call the first milk from a cow after calving?” and “What is the term for a heifer born twin to a bull?”

While excited about the potential of my young team, I also had what I would call a “realistic” expectation. Dairy bowl is a competitive sport here in Wisconsin. Some of these kids were born with a buzzer in their hand, and their first word was “immunoglobulin.”


Just looking at the facts, I had determined in my mind that my team – which consisted of two experienced members and two rookies – would fare respectably.

However, beating out 35 teams for the chance to compete at the National Junior Holstein Convention in Bellevue, Washington, did not even cross my mind – at least not until one of our first practices, when I quizzed the kids on the whereabouts of the national contest. Kevin immediately piped in, asking, “If we win state, will we drive or fly to Washington?”

My quick response to his sincere question was a chuckle followed by, “We’ll worry about that if it’s necessary.” Really, that was my nice way of saying, “We don’t have a chance against the other teams with older kids who have been studying dairy bowl for literally half of their lives.”

To me, that was simple logic, facts and reality. But Kevin wasn’t like me. He dreamed fearlessly. All of the barriers that came to my mind didn’t even cross his.

Now, fast-forward to January, to the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Convention. I sat rigidly on the edge of my chair, biting my lip and gripping my fist, as these four kids swiftly struck the buzzers and confidently quipped out correct responses.

We moved through the brackets until, all of sudden, we were in the finals. Our team was just one win away from top honors in their division and earning a trip to Washington. That round ended up in a tough loss to a well-deserving team, but I could not have been more proud of the kids I had coached. They had exceeded my expectations.

This experience got me thinking: When did I stop looking at the world like Kevin, without fear or doubt? When did I stop dreaming big?

At some point, I had determined in my own mind that the sky wasn’t the limit and, instead, a concrete ceiling stretched above, confining me comfortably within my realm of “realistic” expectations while my wildest dreams danced dangerously overhead. I had become afraid to set my goals too high, for fear of failure, disappointment or what other people might say.

Then God put a piece of scripture in front of me to dispute my false beliefs: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

The message was loud and clear: Stop being afraid to dream big. Believe whole-heartedly in He “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Start asking for more and expecting it in faith. Anticipate the answered prayers. Assume the miracles. Praise God in advance for the blessings to come.

At the end of our dairy bowl season, I had taught the kids practical knowledge, like the temperature of liquid nitrogen in a semen tank, but the greatest lesson of all was the one Kevin taught me. God spoke to me through the voice of a child to say, “Dream without fear.”

So as you go about your day on the dairy, I challenge you to do the same. Refuse to let human logic set the parameters of what you can achieve. Believe in the goodness the Lord has in store for you, and dream fearlessly.  end mark

Peggy Coffeen