Friday, November 25, 2022

Sweet dreams

For the past several years, I've struggled with chronic insomnia. It's gotten so bad, I dread the nighttime because I know, when it's time for bed, I'm not going to sleep. But on rare occasions, especially when I take medication to help with sleeplessness, I dream. 

Last night, I dreamed about my brother. It was a very odd and unexpected thing, especially since he's been dead for 491 days at the time of this posting. 

My brother and I were very close and when he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I was devastated. His cancer diagnosis came after my breast cancer diagnosis, so I knew a lot of the things he'd face as he began treatment, but I didn't expect him to die so suddenly. It was a heart wrenching experience, and I didn't feel we had the chance for a proper goodbye. Maybe that's why God allowed me to have the dream about him last night. 

Dreams are fickle, as most people know. You can't trust them, but this one was so unique, so comforting, and peaceful, it was vastly different from other dreams I've had in the past. 

I don't know exactly where we were in the dream, but I was in some type of large building wandering through crowds of people. As I worked to find my way, I caught a glimpse of someone who looked like my brother. As our eyes met, I jumped up to see above the people and threw my hand in the air to wave. Within seconds, we were close. The sea of people had parted. As we stood there, face to face, we smiled. There were no words, just a knowing. I knew he was my brother. It's kind of like I felt his spirit, but I don't want to sound weird and new age-y. It's difficult to explain. 

We began walking together down a hallway. As we walked, we talked without saying anything. It was like we were expressing our sadness over missing each other but at the same time, we were glad to be reunited. 

We continued on for some time enjoying each other's company and then, I felt our time was coming to an end. 

In my dream, we never said goodbye to each other. He was just there and then he was gone. 

When he vanished, I wasn't sad or upset. I was thankful we'd been given one last opportunity to "visit." I took comfort knowing he was at peace, and we'd meet again one day. I think he felt good at having been able to "checkup" on me. 

Now I don't believe in contacting the dead or anything like that, in fact, the Bible warns against it, but I do think, at times, God allows brief encounters for those who're struggling with the death of a loved one and often times, those experiences come in brief dreams. 

I've only dreamed once or twice in a similar way about a loved one who's already passed on. Each time, it's been a comforting thing, not an unpleasant or scary experience. 

We don't understand the ways of God and while I'm not positive this was His gift to me;

(Jimmy in the camo hat)

I'd like to think it was especially since it gave me a type of closure I've needed for months. 

Loving someone is complicated and is definitely an investment. It's a conglomeration of feelings, tangled together with experiences that often span years and years of time. But it's so worth it, don't you think? 

Many people lose loved ones before having a chance to apologize or make amends for hurtful words or actions. It's so much easier to release someone you love when you know you've done everything in your power to show your love to them. 

I'm thankful Jimmy and I were able to spend many good days together before he left this earth. Those sweet memories are priceless. 

I'm also thankful I've been able to keep all the text messages we shared as he was going through cancer. Being able to re-read those has helped me on days when I've missed him terribly. 

There are also photographs and videos to help ease the pain. I look through them when I need to "see" him again. 

We're only here on this earth for a brief moment and then we vanish like a vapor, the Bible says. 

Whether my dream was a gift from God, as a last goodbye, or whether it was my mind imagining a random scenario, I'll never know until I get to heaven, but I like to think it's the former. 

God is a good God. He knows our needs and He wants to bless us. I'm so glad He loves us so. And if He can use a dream to speak to His prophets of old, I think He just might choose to allow someone like me to dream a little dream of her beloved brother. 


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Her name was Rain


I stood in line to checkout, balancing packages and waiting my turn. As the line moved forward, I greeted the cashier with a hearty, “Good afternoon.” She responded with a grunt and that’s when I noticed her face studded with metal. Trying not to judge, I wondered why she’d chosen so many piercings.
 
She rang up my items one by one as I tried hard to think of things to talk with her about. My eye caught her name tag. It said her name was Rain. Interesting, I thought. This woman looked to be about 25. I didn’t think her parents were from my generation, so I asked about her name. “I like your name,” I began, “It’s so different. May I ask if it’s your first name or your middle name?” She looked up from bagging and said, “It’s not my name, it’s just one I identify with. My name is Kate.”

I became quiet for a moment, not knowing how to respond. I’d never encountered someone who’d chosen a name purely on its merits.
 
She continued working and I watched her countenance. I could tell, by her facial expressions as by her mannerisms, she didn’t enjoy her job and didn’t want to be there.
 
Trying my best to be cordial and kind, I offered to help her bag. She appreciated the offer and said she hated fighting with them. For several minutes I continued to watch her as I bagged my purchases.
Rain. She was definitely not a gentle, soft one. No, she was more of a brewing storm. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Be gentle, she’s been wounded.” That’s when it clicked- all the piercings, the attitude, the demeanor/ they were all a hard, protective shell. I was sure, somewhere underneath, was a soft, moldable little girl yearning for love.
 
Thanking Rain for her help, I leaned forward and lightly touched her hand. Our eyes met for a brief second and I said, “It’ll be ok. He sees you.”

A tear rolled down her cheek and she quickly wiped it away. The next customer pushed forward, and I moved out of cue making a mental note to pray daily for Rain/Kate.
 
In the next few days, I’ll stop back in and visit Rain. This next time, I’m hoping to plant seeds of hope.
I was reminded we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. We need to see not only with our eyes but with our heart. There are so many walking wounded among us. They need Jesus. They may not even know it, but they do. It’s our job to offer them small doses whenever we can.
 
“I planted the seed,Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Restless

I feel it in deep within my soul, an unsettled, slightly anxious feeling of restlessness. It's not an I’m-bored-and-should-do-something kind of restlessness, it's much deeper than that. My soul is stirring. My being is restless. 

I find myself staring into space wondering- what am I doing with my life? Why do I feel this way? But no answers come. 

There's a yearning deep inside for something but I don't know what the something is. 

It feels as if there's a major event just around the corner, but instead of feeling expectancy, dread, or fear, I feel unsettled. 

And with that feeling, there's a longing. I want more. I need more. I expect more. 

But why?

Is it this season of life? 

Perhaps the feeling will pass in a day or two. Until then, I'm going to embrace it. 




Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Don't look back

 

It takes a lot of strength to walk away from something without looking back, believe me, I know. This is a lesson I've learned the hard way. The fixer in me always wants to make things right and that has caused me to often look back on people, places, and circumstances. 

In some instances, a brief look back was necessary to help me move forward, but in the majority of the cases, looking back only caused feelings of sadness, depression, or regret. And that's not a good thing. 

I was watching a made for TV movie series the other day. In one particular scene, a criminal is working hard to prepare a bomb. As he works to connect various wires and things to a complicated apparatus, the camera pans out revealing the dangerous explosive is being placed inside an innocuous looking suitcase. Later, as the show moves ahead, we see the criminal placing the bomb laden suitcase in a very public place, just at the corner of a building. As he walks away, he tucks a remote control into his pocket and as an evil smile crosses his face. Viewers can only imagine what comes next. Inevitably, a well-timed explosion will occur. Lives will be changed in a split second. Some will likely die, and others will suffer bodily injury. But will the perpetrator look back to witness the damage? The camera doesn't reveal those details. 

As I watched the show, I became engrossed. Sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, I watched as one person and then another passed by the suitcase. None of the passersby paid attention to the abandoned luggage, and then, the screen goes into a tight shot. A small hand reaches down for the handle of the case just as the remote-control timer's numbers light up in red and we see the countdown begin, 03, 02, 01....

The next scene shows a crumpled little body amid a large pile of bricks and debris. Without having seen the event, one knows what happened. An evil intent had led to a malicious act which had, in turn, caused unnecessary, but permanent damage. It was nasty, heart wrenching stuff. 

Those kinds of show make for good entertainment, but in real life, it's a very different scenario. 

As I thought about the plot, I was reminded about a quotation popular artist, Mary Englebreit, once said, "Don't look back. You're not going that way." Wise words with intrinsic value. 

Another writer, Paul penned something more detailed in the book of Philippians of the Holy Bible. In chapter 3, verses 13- 14, he says: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." He was reminding us the importance of remembering not only who we are and where we were going, but whose we are and why we are on the journey in the first place. 

It's easy to want to look back at devastating life events wondering why they happened and if there might have been anything we could have done to have prevented them but looking back on past events can't change them. It can only bring heartbreak and wondering. So why do we do it? 

There's an old saying, "Curiosity killed the cat." Not put that saying in context with the bomb incident I mentioned before and you'll get a clear picture. 

Often, God allows difficult and challenging things into our lives as part of His most excellent, perfect plan. Though we can't see or understand the entire picture at the time of the event, He knows exactly what is necessary to bring about the desired effects He chooses. 

Perhaps He will use a life altering event to help change our current course, moving us forward onto a better path. Though we may not understand, we must trust His Sovereignty. 

In almost 65 years of life, I've learned the importance of choosing not to look back. The lessons haven't always been easily learned. In the past, when I've glanced backward, I've often had to dodge a sharp piece of shrapnel, one of God's gentle reminders that I needed to leave well enough alone, to let bygones be bygones. When I've been obedient to walk away from dangerous or volatile situations, His hand of protection has covered me and guided me forward. When I've refused to heed His command and have chosen my own way, I've often been burned and have had to learn a very difficult lesson the hard way. 

I guess that's why He never gave us eyes in the backs of our heads. If He had, we'd constantly be looking backward! I'm thankful for His constant hedge of protection in my life. I hope you'll choose to keep your eyes forward, too. That way, you won't be tempted to glance back. Just remember, you aren't going that way. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Tuesday thoughts

 A friend of mine is going in for a diagnostic mammogram today. She opted to keep her breasts when she was diagnosed with cancer, while I did not. That means she'll continue to have routine mammograms periodically for the rest of her life. And while I can't judge her for her decision, I wish she didn't have to go through the trauma of constant testing. 

Having your breasts removed doesn't guarantee you'll never have breast cancer again. It just means if it ever returns, no matter where it decides to show up, it'll still be considered breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer. 

It's a bum rap if you ask me. It seems that if you lop off your breasts, your chances of a recurrence should be nil, but that's not the case. And that makes me nervous. 

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the possibility of a recurrence. I try my best not to dwell on it, but if I'm honest, I have to admit the thought crosses my mind at least once, if not more times a day. 

I keep wondering when I'll forget about cancer. It's been 8 years since I was diagnosed. You'd think that would be more than enough time to forget about it, but I can't. 

I just signed up for a 30 mile dog walk challenge with the American Cancer Society. I'm doing it to honor loved ones I've lost to cancer but also to celebrate the fact that I'm still alive and actually can walk. Every time I see a Facebook ad pop up in my feed for some sort of cancer fundraiser, I'm tempted to sign up. I wonder why I feel compelled to do that? 

I don't want to sound cynical, but I doubt there will ever be a cure for cancer. There's too much money in the drugs that are supposed to treat it. Just think how much money pharmaceutical companies would lose if there was no longer a need for their products. They'd go out of business mighty fast. Even so, I keep hoping one day there will be a cure. I think we all want that. 

And wouldn't it be wonderful it if was something extremely simple and easily accessible? Something, perhaps, right under our noses...

Wishful thinking, right? But you know what they say, Dreamers dream. And I'm a dreamer. Always have been, always will be.