Dreams Renewed – This article was first published in The Lutheran Digest
I have seldom found myself in the slump that I have suffered this fall. As the weeks pass, I seek strength from within myself to survive. I pray, but my prayers feel empty. Writing has long been my joy, but now I approach the computer with lackluster reserve, often shutting it down without a syllable having been written. “ Why,” I ask myself, “am I so down during my most favorite season of the year?”
During a sleepless dawn, the questions continue. “Why can’t I bounce along with the diversity, and giggle at the incongruity of my life? Where is my zest? Where is my resilience? What has happened to the dreams?”
Dreaming is the thing that I learned best growing up. When one lives in virtual poverty, dreaming is a form of self-preservation—one that I learned well. I dreamed of going to school, and learning to read and write. It would be exciting, an adventure, and a gateway to success. In reality, it was all of those things, as well as sometimes mundane, sometimes scary, and often unhappy. My teachers were not pleased that I had taught myself to read before they could do so, and they did not find my stories as interesting as the Dick and Jane series we read in school. Still, I pushed on toward the dream, earning scholarships to college and filling my life with experiences and knowledge that would prepare me for success. Finally, I dreamed of when I would be “grown”, and have a home of my own. I would have a handsome husband who would adore me, beautiful children, a rambling two-story house, cats everywhere, and I would write, write, write.
Again, I learned that you temper those dreams with reality. Cats and children require upkeep—financial and physical. Often my writing took second place to motherhood—Brownie Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, sleepover parties, chicken pox. I learned the energy it takes to keep a two-story house in working order! I snuggled into my reality, forged a career in the classroom teaching high school seniors to create and follow dreams of their own, and stored my dreams for another season.
Then I dreamed about the autumn of my life, when I would retire from teaching, become a doting grandmother, and write, write, and write. I would still be young enough—and have the time—to write. Now that autumn has arrived, I am eligible for that early retirement for which I have planned. But facing the dream I’ve nurtured for so long daunts me. Can I meet the financial challenges? After all, I had not completely realized how enormous it would be educating those children, so my finances are not as great as I’d hoped they would be. Neither had I expected that adoring, handsome husbands to die so young of cancer. My own diagnosis of a chronic health problem now requires more attention and care.
Have my dreams “dried up” now that I have reached the autumn of my life—when I have become “a woman of a certain age”? Are they disappearing over the horizon, along with my perky breasts, unlined skin, and good health? Have I deferred them, or have they deserted me?
Is there life without dreams?
In the sea of my trepidation, my answer arrives from the scriptures. I read the beautiful third chapter of Ecclesiastes. How many times have I repeated those verses? “To everything there is a season.” All these years amid those dreams, I have lived through the seasons of the life God had promised. My dreams have been His gift. Now, my season is a time to make new dreams, to move to a new step, and to rely on the faith taught to me in my childhood.
The dreams through the years have kept me strong. They have given me the courage to keep standing up when I am flattened by adversity; they have fed my soul when it encountered a “starvation” diet. They have given me hope when none existed, happiness amid sorrow, excitement amid the mundane, and a sense of urgency amid the lackadaisical. They have given me purpose.
Herein lies my answer. My dreams and my faith enrich each other. I take long walks, watching the beauty of the natural critters, going on with their lives and adversities without pause. I hold my first grandbaby in my arms, my heart swelling until I almost choke with love as I look into those innocent, trusting eyes. I forge ahead into a new career with the dedication, courage, and love I had given my first one. And in the early hours of an autumn morning, my heart opens to new dreams.
My dreams have not been deferred; rather, they have been revived. They have been given new life, a new direction, and new dimensions. Excitement blooms within, as I gather courage and embark on that path to a destination dreamed of so long ago. In the freshness of a new day, I chide myself for those moments of doubts until I realize that they are also just a part of the growth process, the pattern of my life.