Dreams are Children

dreams-3Do you dream? I don’t mean the go to bed at night dreams, but dreams as in what you want in your life or what you want your life to look like? I think all of us have big dreams when we’re young. The world then is a huge place when we’re small and we haven’t yet come to understand that the moon and stars may just be beyond our reach.

Of course, we all grow up and our understanding of the world becomes more complex. Our understanding of our place in the grand scheme of things becomes more complex as well.

When I was very young, I remember dreaming of being a veterinarian (a dream I think many little girls have). I also remember dreaming of being able to sing on national television and hearing people cheer for me. I’m sure there were others, but these are the two that I can actively remember dreaming. I also remember that I wasn’t very old before I learned that dreams don’t always come true…

…and then I stopped dreaming altogether.

Maybe this was because, as a child of an abusive parent, I never felt I was on solid ground; I never felt that the world around me was a safe place to share my wishes and hopes. Family members that were supposed to protect me left me open to abuse or participated in abuse leaving me feeling shattered and empty. I was been beaten down so many times that the idea of working that hard for something I wanted was more than I could fathom and the negative words and actions that came my way on a regular basis convinced me that I neither had the ability to make things happen that were good nor was I a person that was worthy of having dreams come true. I came to think that somehow I had done something horrible – or that I was a horrible person – and that my life would be spent on the sidelines seeing others obtain their most obscure dreams while the ache in my heart would grow bigger with every lost hope.

It took a long time for me to get to a point where I felt that I was good enough as a person to see a dream or two realized; that the negative things around me didn’t need to perpetuate themselves. Some of this came from taking responsibility for the negative energy I was putting out in the universe and realizing that while it may have seemed that I was cursed in some way, the world didn’t really “have it in for me”. But this didn’t happen before I had let a good number of dreams die.

Some of those dreams died quickly and sometimes they died a very slow and painful death and left remnants of themselves behind creating a vortex that seemingly sucked the life out of other the dreams that were left.

I never really understood why the death of a dream could be so profoundly painful until I watched Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

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In this musical, Mr. Sondheim deals with several children’s fables and there are many lessons and truths presented by the individual characters and stories, but the one that stuck with me comes from the witch.

The song, Children Will Listen reminds the listener that the things we say have impact on those around us. Much like the things I heard when I was a child that were hurtful and ended up impacting the dreams – or lack thereof – I had growing up, the words we speak have the power to help or hurt; to feed or to starve.

While this message is powerful in and of itself, the sentence that truly struck me was, “wishes are children”.

Wow. What a profound statement!

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how true this really is.

Dreams are those things that we all hold closest to our hearts. They are a glimmer of a thought on the horizon of our life. When they initially come to us, they may be just a niggling in our brains but they grow with every “what if” and “if only” thought that ventures through. As time goes on, these dreams are a part of us; a ring we desperately want to grasp.

The problem is, dreams are also fragile. Negative words, thoughts and actions chip away at the delicate shell of each dream and cause it to disappear in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, all of that effort; that blood, sweat and tears were for naught.

dreamsWe must treat our dreams as delicately as we treat our children. If we don’t, we risk at best stifling the ability for them to grow and at worst, suffocating them altogether.

Mr. Sondheim also wisely points out that wishes may come true, but they are not free. They cost us our time, our love, our energy, and a bit of our identity. Like children, they are not ours to keep forever. Rather, they must be given away so they can be the true gift they were intended to be.

We must love them, nourish them, encourage them and guide them. In the end, we must also be prepared for them to take on a life of their own to become what they were intended to be. This, as I look back, may actually be what caused my dreams to die and create the large vortex of pain I experienced.

I wanted so desperately to hold on to the dreams that I allowed into my heart that I held on too tightly, never letting the ideas to be spoken aloud or the vision to be seen by others. I was so sure that someone else would crush what I had inside of me that I crushed it first.

I understand so clearly the desire to hold tightly to the things that mean a lot to us; to be able to be there every moment to see the successes – and to be able to take the accolades for those successes – and to also wipe away the evidence failures that will inevitably happen as quickly as possible so nobody can see; so nobody knows that everything isn’t perfect.

The thing is that dreams are not perfect because they are truly a part of us, just like our children. There will be losses and failures but we cannot, as dreamers, stop dreaming out of fear of those losses or wipe them away and pretend they didn’t happen any more than we can pretend a child who no longer is able to be with us physically never existed in the first place. We are all blessed to have our children and our dreams for a time that is not determined by us. This is painful and challenging and often causes us to be angry at the One who gave them to us in the first place. But the thing is that the length of time we have them is not what makes the great. What makes them great is the fact that they exist at all.

If you have dreams you’ve realized, I would love to hear about them! If you, like me, have had to let dreams go, I would love to hear about that as well. How did you move on? What has that done to your faith? Are you still being sucked into the vortex of pain from these losses or have you been able to find your way out of the woods to the sunlight? Reach out to me. Tell me your dreams realized or not. Maybe we can help each other attain new dreams we never thought possible!

 

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

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Can you believe we are already 15 days into the new year? Are you one of the many who made a New Year’s resolution? If so, are you still working on it or not?

Resolutions are funny things. They often focus on the things we don’t like about ourselves and we choose this annual marker to decide to change it. Its not like we couldn’t do it any other time of the year, mind you, but somehow, as the countdown begins and the ball starts to drop, it seems more significant and maybe even more achievable.

Or not.

I personally didn’t make any resolutions and honestly haven’t for quite some time. I have goals and things I want to do more or less of, but I don’t put a title around those items nor do I make some public announcement about it so I can either gloat or, more likely, admit defeat far too soon. I have enough of a struggle with the fear of failure that I don’t need to put myself in a place to more likely than not fail and feel horrible about it.

I have made resoultions in the past, however. I am probably not too different from you in the things I’ve chosen to resolve: lose weight, get into better shape, be better about my daily devotion time, quit smoking, start eating better. Any of those hit home for you?

How about “find the love of my life”?

If you’re single, like I am, this has been one of those things that has passed across my “resolution platter” many times. I have thought things like, “this year, I’m picking a dating site and really working at it until I find someone”, or ” this year, I resolve to be more open to the people around me so I can find that special someone”. Needless to say those resolutions haven’t done well for me in the past and I venture to say they would do no better for me today were I to make them again.

Being single is hard. We live in a world where people expect you to have a partner of some sort. People somehow plan things with couples in mind – dinner parties, cocktail parties, recreational events all seem to be “couple-y” events and on the rare occa151sion a single person does get invited, it – at least for me often has that weird 5th wheel kinda feel about it. Couples gravitate to one another and there the single person sits, alone talking to the wallpaper….or quietly sliding out the door.

While all of these feelings still apply to me and my life, I came to an amazing realization just this morning that has changed the way I view the whole relationship thing.

The relationship thing or couple thing isn’t about love.

I know. This seems completely wrong particularly from a faith standpoint, but hear me out.

We are looking for love with human beings who are flawed and suffering just as we are and each of those individuals are as incapable of providing the kind of long-suffering, non-judgmental love to us as we are to them.  And to make matters worse, we are looking for love to fill something within us that cannot be filled by anything that can be found on this planet.

I hear ya. You’re screaming at the screen saying that love is the be all and end all of human existence! We are created to love! Yes, indeed we are created to love – but I think it looks different than what we have all been trying to find here on this earth.

If you are of Christian faith, you -like I – have been taught that God is love. Therefore, He – and only He – is the very thing that we are seeking, period. The problem with the way we look at love in through our human eyes is that we look for it to be something that we “get”. We think we’ve fallen in love with someone because they give us things. Not necessarily physical objects, though that often happens as well, but more to the point, they make us feel certain things – cared for, comfortable in our own skin, special. When we start to lose those special feelings with someone, it always comes back to how we no longer feel “loved” – the person doesn’t do the sweet, caring things they used to or we feel taken for granted.  Whatever the statement, the bottom line is that we are no longer “getting” what we were getting in the first place.

god-is-love-and-love-is-realBut the thing is that love is not a consumer event. Love is God and God is love. The only way to be “in love” is to have God as a part of our lives; to have Him abide in our hearts so that we can reflect out to others the very definition of who He is. Once we are able to do that, we can then have the communion with others that God intended for us to have and fill our desire for companionship and closeness.

So why am I taking the time to make this point? Well, as I realized this pretty significant nuance about love and its true meaning, I realized that by our focusing on getting something from a human being that is just as flawed as we are, we are putting ourselves in the position to believe that love fails…and if love fails, and God is love, then God fails.

I’m sure you think I’m overthinking this, but think about it for a moment with me.

We meet someone, we fall in “love”, we get married and the marriage doesn’t last. Love failed. And then we go to church and we hear how God is love…but in our lives, love failed. If God is love, and love fails, why would I ever want to put my trust in Him? I don’t know that I would.

But96dd93dffa69719c24c885e5157a58d0 if, as I am suggesting here, that love is God and God is love and that the relationships we have are merely a result of HIS love, not ours, then we can in fact have love that does NOT fail because God does not fail.

Ever.

Today, I challenge  you go to do your Bible and read, as I have done, the verses about love. Notice how they are not about us individually and what we can get from one another but about what we can give to others when we have God abiding in us. Take a verse like 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 and replace the word “love” with “God” and see how it changes the tone and the power of the words. If you do this, I pray that you will be blessed in abundance as a result and that you will share your experiences with me.

 

 

Happy Epiphany!

epiphanyausWe did it! We made it successfully through the holiday season. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it was altogether successful from your point of view, but since we are meeting here, that means we are both breathing and functioning at least to some level, so I would call that successful.

I am, as you may know, a cradle Episcopalian so for me, the actual Christmas season just ended with the celebration of Epiphany – the celebration of the Wise Men following the star to meet the baby Jesus. In my home church, we celebrate this day by having the children tell the Christmas story through a small pageant. Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men and angels all tell the story of the birth of Jesus with the help of an eclectic parade of animals including an owl and chicken.

I am always so amazed by the bravery of these kids. Some of these children are just barely walking yet they get up in front of people doing as they are asked without question, without fuss. They are participating for the sheer joy of it even though for many, the words they are speaking have no real meaning. This, to me, is the epitome of Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, and truly all the named figures of the Bible did. They simply did as they were asked without question. This is true faith and I believe it is the faith that God really wishes for us to experience.

Of course, as we get older, it becomes significantly harder for us to act this way. Even though Nike has made a mint on the phrase Just Do It, how many times do we actually heed that advice?

No, more often than not we allow our mind to get in the way of our heart and we fail to act on nudgings from the Holy Spirit. Instead, we rationalize ourselves right out of experiencing the joy of the holiday. So focused are we on making sure everyone knows that Christmas is more that getting gifts that we destroy the wonder and joy that we were once able to experience without question.

Do you remember?

matthew18_3 Think back to a time in your childhood when you ran down the stairs or out of your room to see the tree and the multitude of brightly colored packages that were scattered around it. Or maybe your Christmas was smaller – there were only one or two packages or even just a stocking with some wonderful treasures to behold. Regardless, when we were little, it was all wonderful. We didn’t know we should be wanting the big expensive toys. We didn’t know that our family members spent hours trying to find ways to make the day special. We were able to experience Christmas in its purest form.

As I think about the people throughout the Christmas season who profess over and over about the finding the “true meaning of Christmas” or keeping Christ in Christmas, I can’t help but think that this childlike wonder is really the true meaning of Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is, for Christians, a time of the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into this world. It is a time of prophesies being fulfilled and God revealing His love for us in a new and wonderful way. All of those things are miraculous and should not be forgotten, but we have worked so hard to make the holiday Religious, Pious, and Spiritual that we have taken all of the celebration and joy from the season.

Matthew 18:3 states that we cannot enter Kingdom of God without becoming like children. While this verse has many applications and interpretations, when applied to Christmas, I find it so very truthful. I’s not about God keeping people out of His kingdom or judgment, but rather understanding that we will never understand or experience the joy of Christmas that God intends for us without becoming childlike in our view of it.

I know. You’re saying we aren’t children any more so how can this possibly happen?

Clearly, we cannot become children again nor can we remove our experiences and history that has tainted the way we look at Christmas. But what we can do is try to remove expectations on ourselves, those around us and the holiday itself and just experience things with fresh eyes the same way a child does; the same way Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men did.

2000+ years ago, Mary and Joseph had no idea that the birth of their child would be during their trek to complete the required census or that they would have to stay in a barn and use a feed trough as a crib. This was all unexpected, frightening and astonishing to them. When a child hears the story of the birth of Jesus for the first time, many of these same feelings arise in his or her heart. They can’t believe a baby would be born in a barn or that people would come from hundreds of miles away to see the newborn baby. We as believers need to watch for those feelings of wonder and astonishment and experience them with those who are just learning. We need to see Christmas through the eyes of children so that we might become children ourselves in the way we view our faith.

Now I know what you’re saying. Christmas is over. Why am I talking about how to experience the joy of Christmas when everything has now been packed away and we have moved on?

Well, the thing is our faith doesn’t end when Christmas does nor should our desire to see our faith through fresh, childlike eyes. Ok, so it’s too late to find that sense of wonder about the birth of Jesus for this year, but it’s not too late to find the faith that will allow you to just act when God calls instead of rationalizing your way out of it. It’s not too late to follow whatever star God has placed in your night sky. It’s not too late to extend the grace, mercy and love that we talk about during the Christmas season to those who desperately need it.

The fact that we all made it through the Christmas season to see another new year is a blessing that should be celebrated. What better way to celebrate than to scrape away the layers of cynicism that age has layered over our hearts and minds and look on the world with fresh, childlike eyes to see the wonders that God is placing before us every single day.

Come join me. Let’s be children again!

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