Dream Diary

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Shh . . . I’m dreaming

I have had lots of God-given dreams, and other dreams of personal significance.  From the titles of two of my books—half of what I’ve written! (Laughing in My Dreams and Dancing in My Dreams)—it’s obvious that dreams and dreaming has played a part in my life.  And dreams are one way that God speaks to us:

For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword (Job 33:14-18).

But of course, not every dream is a God dream.  Those other dreams can be useful in helping you to understand how you’re feeling about certain things in your life.  For example, when I was a new mother being woken every two hours to nurse my baby, I had a dream that I was trying to vacuum the house and I had half a dozen little kids hanging onto my legs and pulling on my shirt.  I was feeling overwhelmed, and the dream helped me to understand that so that I could look for help to do all the things I needed to do.

Have you ever had an interesting dream, and you wanted to remember and understand the dream, but it faded away too quickly?  Of course, that happens to all of us.  You’re too sleepy to get up and search for a pen and paper, and then if you do, the dream is mostly gone (if not altogether forgotten) by the time you do.  I believe that we all dream, though many people say that they never dream.  I have heard that if you keep a pen and paper handy, and write your dreams down, you will become better at remembering your dreams.  So I decided to give it a try.

Actually, what I did was get a regular diary, and start recording the daily personal words that God was giving me (which I wrote about in yesterday’s post Devotional Journal).  Since the dates in the diary start about a month before I bought it, I began writing my dreams on those blank pages.  [That’s why the picture of the page (in my recent post Swedish Fish and the Nice Young Man) where I wrote my dream of November 4, says August 23 (in Italian).]

The dream mentioned above was a Rapture dream because it had a nice young man holding the door open for me, and as soon as I woke up, I knew that He was Jesus.  And in the continuation of that dream, we were in a car, going around and picking up all the other people who had sprouted like us.  I’ve had a lot of Rapture dreams lately.  But in looking through my dream diary I was caught by this one:

The Thorn

I only remember that someone had stepped on a thorn and it was very painful.  They were asked to rate the pain on a scale like in the doctor’s office.  I don’t remember the rating, but it was high-end.

I had thought that this dream had to do with the divorce and the possibility of running into my ex or one of his family here in Texas because I had driven through his last known location just that day.  But in light of recent events (see Kicked When I was Down), I think it may have been a prophetic dream, speaking about the events that would happen a week later, when I was passive-aggressively thrown out of Barbara and Leo’s house.  That was very painful, and more so because of the way that they did it.

I don’t want to keep going over and over and over this thing.  But honestly, how do I handle family get-togethers?  I have always believed in forgiving people as quickly as you can, but never allow them the opportunity to hurt you again.  Am I wrong about that?

Well, in today’s devotional, I believe that God is telling me that in this case, I am wrong.  Love demands that we make ourselves vulnerable.  My flesh is screaming NOOOOOOOO!!!!!  But I’ve got to crucify the flesh, take up my cross, and follow Jesus.  Two days ago, the Lord gave me 1 Samuel 7:12-13:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines.

Then yesterday: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home?  That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity,” (Jonah 4:2).

Then today: “For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?” (Psalm 18:31).  I feel like with these three passages the Lord is telling me to forgive, let myself be vulnerable again, and show all those involved what grace really looks like.  And God will be my Rock, my Stone of Help through this.  Oh, God!  It’s hard!  I have never told my side (not to them), and God is telling me not to run away from the pain when all my flesh screams for me to run away and never look back.  But this is a path I’ve got to walk, and I can do it only through the help of my Rock.

God is good!  Even with all of life’s thorns, God is good!

Devotional Journal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s page from my Devotional Journal

At the end of August I bought a diary, and started recording the daily personal words that God was giving me.  Since the dates in the diary start about a month before I began keeping my devotional journal, I began inserting dreams on those blank pages.  That’s why the date on the page pictured in my post of November 4 (see Swedish Fish and the Nice Young Man says (in Italian) August 23.  (Tomorrow I will write about some of those dreams—stay tuned!)

Here’s how my devotional journal works: after prayer time, I always ask the Lord if He has a word for me for today, and He gives it to me like this: I get the impression in my mind (sometimes hearing His voice) of a verse.  For example, today’s word, He said in my mind: “Jonah 4:2.”  So I looked it up, having no idea what it said.  All I knew is that by the fourth chapter of Jonah, Nineveh had repented and been spared, and that Jonah sat outside of town, angry that God had spared those rotten Ninevites.  So here’s what it says:

O Lord, is this not what I said when I was yet in my country?  This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Forgiving Nineveh is no small thing when you understand how offensive sin is to God.  People sometimes think that the God of the Old Testament had a terrible temper and that His anger was way over the top.  But the reality is that sin is so vile and offensive to our Holy God that His justice cannot allow it to go unpunished.  The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament.  The difference is that Jesus took the punishment for our sins, so now we can enjoy God’s mercy.  See how Jonah describes Him in this verse: gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  That doesn’t sound like most people’s idea of the Old Testament God, but He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So, here’s what this verse means to me, personally: I have resolved the robbery issue as much as possible at this time, so this morning my mind went back to the thing with Barbara and Leo throwing me out of their house (see my recent post Kicked When I was Down).  Why go over the whole thing again?  Honestly, I would rather forget it and move on.  But here’s the thing, they involved a family member—one who has always been ready to think the worst of me.  I will have to go to family get-togethers with this person.  I’m not going to slink off like someone who was in the wrong, but family get-togethers with him could be very uncomfortable for me from now on.  Nor am I going to stop speaking to him, although I feel very threatened and defensive, and not at all ready to see him again.

I hate confrontation, but the passive-aggressive way that Barbara and Leo treated me was very hurtful.  And my family member’s willing involvement in that passive-aggression was very hurtful—even more so.  Nobody ever asked for or heard my side.  Then I found out that there was also gossip about me and this situation, and still my side has never been told.

So what to do?  I don’t want to ruin the next family gathering, but every meal at his house will leave me feeling scrutinized to see if I clear the table and wash the dishes.  Of course, I’ll have to—and promptly.  And if he tells me that I don’t have to wash dishes, then the whole thing could come exploding out of me.  I don’t want that, either, but my side has never been told.

Through this verse, I see the Jonah in me and my attitude.  I feel the Lord telling me that I must forgive.  Forgive them (which I have already done) and forgive him (which I’m trying to do).

What do I want?  I want to forgive, forget it, and move on.  I want my emotions to catch up with my intellectual decision to forgive.  I have learned that there are some people that I need to forgive every time they come to mind because the hurt goes so deep.  But I know that if I faithfully hold onto that decision to forgive, eventually, the hurt will be gone, and the offense forgotten.

Forgive like God, who truly forgets the offense.  God is good!

Swedish Fish and the Nice Young Man

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASwedish Fish & my dream journal (ignore the date!)

I had a strange dream.  I guess that’s an obvious statement since dreams are almost always strange.  I have been keeping a dream journal since the end of August, and two of my books have the word Dreams in the title (Laughing in My Dreams and Dancing in My Dreams).  I don’t dream every night (at least I don’t remember dreaming every night), and not all dreams are from God.  But I’m trying to remember my dreams and write them down before they fade away, in an effort to understand the workings of my own mind better.

God-given dreams are always memorable.  God often speaks to people through dreams:

For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it.  In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, He may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings.  Job 33:14-16

So here is the dream I had, I call it Sprouting Branches:

I was visiting a resort, and after a day there, I started to sprout thin branches like a tree or a vine.  I was embarrassed and didn’t want my family to know, so I tried to hide my sprouts.  Then a family member confided to me that she had begun to grow roots, and she showed them to me.  They looked like my branch sprouts, but came off of her feet and ankles and went down, whereas mine came off my torso and arms and went up.  She wanted to cut off the roots so that she could continue to move about freely.  I wondered if cutting them off would hurt, but I didn’t really consider cutting off my branches.  Then as I was walking toward a building, a nice young man held the door open for me.  He smiled at me and said (as if he knew about my hidden sprouts), “It’s OK, everybody in here has them.”

Then I woke up, and immediately I understood that the young man was Jesus, and that the door was a symbol of the Rapture.  Then I fell back asleep and the dream continued:

I was in a car full of people, and we were going around, picking up sprouted people.  We were going to take them to a class that would explain to all of us what was going on with the sprouting.

When I prayed about this dream, I had a couple of Rapture verses in mind, but God gave me 1 Thessalonians 4:13:

Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.

The Bible often uses the term “fallen asleep” when speaking of His people to mean that they have died.  I hadn’t thought of it before reading this verse, but I think the people who were growing roots had died.  Perhaps the sprouting people were dying, though I don’t really think so because I was sprouting, and thanks be to God, I enjoy perfect health.

So then after church yesterday I went to eat a late lunch at (of all places!) Church’s (get it?  after church, I went to eat at Church’s)—a fried chicken fast food place.  They were short-handed, and the kid at the counter was having a lot of trouble taking orders because he was unfamiliar with the register.  So the service was lamentably slow, and many customers were unhappy both with the slowness and with the orders being filled incorrectly.

One lady there had a tiny baby in a carrier and three very active children: a little girl about three years old, and two boys, about seven and eleven years old.  She had left the children seated at a table, guarding her purse.  As time dragged on, the children found it harder and harder to stay in their seats, especially with grandma at the counter, and distracted from them.  Every so often the grandmother would holler at the kids to “pipe-down and behave yourselves!”  Although they were active, they were well-behaved.

The oldest boy had a soft bag about the size of a lunchbox slung across his shoulders.  He was standing near me, looking into the bag when a flash of light came from the bag, surprising both of us.  He looked up, blinked a couple of times, and grinned at me.  I grinned back and said, “Did you just take your picture?”  He laughed and said, “Naw, it was just the flash.”  A few minutes later, he carefully took the large camera out of the bag, aimed the flash, and tried to take the baby’s picture.  The flash didn’t go off this time, and I don’t know if he got her picture or not.  He carefully put the camera back into the bag and closed the hasp.

A few minutes later the boy with the camera bag approached me and gave me a packet of candy: Swedish Fish, which are like gummy bears.  I thanked him and we exchanged smiles.  I finished my meal about the same time that the grandmother finally got her order.  She gathered her children and went out to the parking lot.  The boy with the camera bag held the door open for his little sister, who had run back in to get her grandmother’s purse.  He saw that I had cleared my table, and waited, holding the door open for me, too.  I thanked him and again we exchanged smiles.

This boy was unusually conscientious and polite, and generous to give me some of his candy just because we had shared that funny moment with  his flash.  As I got into the car, I remembered the nice young man from my dream, and thought about the similarity of this experience to that dream.

There are some people who are hostile to Christians, and I’m not an underground Christian at all.  But even though there may be hostile attitudes from time to time, I know that God loves me.  I know that He will hold the door open for me, welcoming me into Heaven when the time comes.  God is good!

Cousinly Love

One of my friends on Facebook is my cousin, Carmelita.  Her posts are always funny and clever and interesting.  And here’s the thing, I had never met her before.  We’re fourth or fifth cousins, and we met through her work on the family genealogy.  Carmelita lives in Austin, so I wanted to meet her while I’m here.  We arranged to meet at her house, where she could show me old family photographs—old like from the 1800’s some of them.

I gave myself an hour to get to her house, which the GPS said was plenty of time.  It wasn’t.  A smart device like that, and it didn’t take traffic conditions into consideration!  I arrived about 20 minutes late.  Carmelita wasn’t upset about that because she was working from home, so she could just continue working while she waited for me.  She came out and hugged me in the driveway.  Then she said, “Gosh!  I hope we like each other!”  I said that I didn’t have any doubt because I already like her, based on her posts.

We went into the house, and her house has lots of great photos taken by her husband, and lots of cool very Texan stuff.  I love her house!  And she has three very affectionate cats.  Yes, Cousin Carmelita and I are definitely compatible!  She brought down the panoramic picture of the 100th family reunion, and I showed her Mom and Daddy and Grandma and my older son.  She knew my branch of the family very well.  Our family descended from a Texas pioneer couple who had thirteen children.  The family grew exponentially from that beginning, so it is a very large family.  I’m from the oldest daughter, while Carmelita is from the fifth son.

Then I discovered that we have even more in common: Carmelita writes.  Today she is starting a novel for National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you write a 50,000 word novel in one month.  It doesn’t have to be a good one, but it must have a beginning and an end.  This is not her first time to write a novel for the contest.  I was impressed.  I’ve written two novels three-quarters of the way through, and then lost interest.  For me, the problem is that I find real life so much stranger and funnier, more tear-jerking, exciting, gut-wrenching, and unpredictable than anything I could possibly make up.

Since I am making up for a severe Mexican food deficit, she took me out for dinner.  The food was not traditional Tex-Mex, but excellent and unmistakably Mexican.  We were surrounded by pirates, witches, fairies, and zombies—it being Halloween.  Austin people celebrate their weirdness and encourage each other to do so with the ubiquitous bumper sticker: Keep Austin Weird.  I’m sorry, but I think the rest of the world is just not weird enough.  I love Austin!

We returned to the house, carefully dodging trick-or-treaters, and I met Carmelita’s husband, Nigel.  They seem to be a really good match.  He’s just as funny and nice as she is.  Before I left them, Nigel took our picture with our great-great-great-great grandparents (well, a picture of them).

CunninghamsWe meet at last!

You know, I think Cousin Carmelita and Nigel like her eccentric missionary cousin from Italy.  I certainly like them!  God is good!

Hey American Girl, Lighten Up!

Note: I started writing this on Friday, but got busy and didn’t finish it until today.

Yesterday I learned that there would be the screening of a documentary about human trafficking in Bologna: Nefarious.  Human trafficking is an issue that I have been intensely interested in ever since attending an International Justice Mission informational event at the University of Texas.

I was an usher with the Texas Performing Arts Center.  I had become an usher because a dear friend is an usher at the San Francisco Opera House.  About 6 months after my divorce, I went to visit her, and she arranged for me to work as a guest usher.  I handed out programs at one of the main doors, and got to watch La Traviata for free.  I was hooked.  Since I don’t own a television, it was a good way to get out among people and see some entertainment for free.  TPA, which is on the campus of the University of Texas, hosts operas, ballets, plays, musicals, concerts, etc.   They required that all ushers work a variety of events, and not only “entertainments.”  These included student events like commencements, workshops, and informational events like IJM, all of which we are free to choose.

When I learned that IJM was a Christian event, I signed up, even though I didn’t know what it was.  The auditorium was packed out, so I stood at the back, fascinated and horrified, and heard story after story of women kidnapped and put to work in brothels far from their homes; men who had been tricked into working off bogus debts while living captive in squalor; and even children sold into the sex trade.  There were success stories of people liberated, but clearly the vast majority had not been affected yet.  The most encouraging thing about that evening was seeing the response of the students.  I realized that only young, idealistic, committed people could ever make an impact on the trade in human trafficking.  Most people my age feel bad about the situation, but never do anything, having had our idealism beaten out of us by life.

It was only after returning to Europe as a missionary that I became aware of the prevalence of human trafficking here.  I started educating myself on the subject, reading as many books about human trafficking as I could get my hands on.  Over time, I started to notice just how many people in my city, and even in my own neighborhood, have probably been trafficked here.  It’s shocking.  A few times I have had the opportunity to talk frankly with these trafficked people, but mostly it’s not possible because they speak neither English nor Italian.  Here are a few of the different slaves I have seen:

  • The girl from China who cuts hair 15 hours a day in a busy salon that charges prices so low they can’t possibly pay her a living wage
  • The man from Sri Lanka who goes from restaurant to restaurant selling flowers, bringing all the proceeds back to his “boss”
  • The teenaged girl from Romania standing on the street corner waiting for a man to pick her up in his car and take her away for sex
  • The man from Vietnam who washes dishes in a restaurant for 12 hours a day, every day, with no day off
  • The woman from Thailand who works all day sewing, weaving, and mending in the dingy room in the back of the tailor shop

If any of these people sound familiar to you, understand that their fellow slaves are in your town, too—yes, even in the United States.  Check out the Slavery Map: www.notforsalecampaign.org/slavery-map

So that is how I became interested in human trafficking, and why I’m going to Bologna to see the screening of Nefarious.  The friend who told me about the screening is Annie, a missionary from the US.  In fact, we decided to go together.  So I booked us a hotel room because our friends there all have full houses because of the screening.  In trying once again to buy train tickets on the internet, I found that the website still didn’t work right.  I don’t live terribly far from the train station, but I am busy enough that I wasn’t happy about having to go down there to do something that, in theory, I should be able to do online.

At the first opportunity, I went to buy train tickets.  Usually I buy train tickets from the machine so that I don’t have to stand in the long line.  The machine also wasn’t working, so I went into the ticket office.  One big improvement is that there is no line now, but a machine that gives you a number instead.  That’s nice.  Now if they would just give us some chairs, things would be even better.  When my number came up I went to the window and asked for my trains.  I found that the price was slightly higher than the internet price, which might be due to being closer to the date of travel or the special priced tickets having been sold out.  Still, it wasn’t much higher than expected.

As we finished the transaction, I asked the ticket seller why the train company’s website never seems to work when it comes to buying tickets online.  He said, “If everything worked as expected, then there would be no surprises.  We Italians have learned to live with these inefficiencies.”  I replied, “I’m American, and we expect things to work as they should.”  He just smiled and said, “That’s your problem.  When things don’t work as they should, it’s trouble and chaos for you.”  That’s when I realized that God was speaking to me through this man.  It’s the same lesson He’s been teaching me since I began the Faith Trip almost 2 years ago: relax, don’t worry, and remember that God is in control of it all.

How embarrassing to have to keep learning the same lesson again and again!  I was so sure that I knew it!  In fact, I have written about not being worried about missing trains, buses, or planes: A-DivineAppointment and I-missed-the-train-but-made-it-to-the-divine-appointment, and older posts.  But I do intend to make it to the train (and the film) on time.

Thank God that He’s so patient with me!  God is good!