One afternoon while I was experiencing some major intestinal discomforts, I took to my bed, hoping to fall asleep so the pain would stop. When I finally drifted off, I dreamt the strangest dream:
I was driving away from our place, a rather large two-story home, and suddenly remembered I had forgotten something. So, I made a U-turn on a country road in my Explorer. But the road wasn’t quite wide enough, and I was soon hanging on the edge of a deep ravine. As I tried to overcorrect to get back on the road, I might have made it, but hit a guardrail and went airborne. As I was sailing through the air, I told God I knew I shouldn’t have tried to make that quick U-turn. In fact, I began to reflect on a lot of other dumb decisions in my life and realized they all had consequences, so I figured this one would also. While I didn’t doubt God’s ability to correct my actions and make it all work out, I also recognized the dire consequences right before my eyes. I pleaded with God and told Him I really didn’t want to go. Then, I began to tell Him why: What about my husband, our children, and the incredible blessing they had been to my life? Did they know how I felt? Was the time truly over? Would I never get to see our grandbabies grow up? What about all the things I wanted to tell them, teach them, and share with them? So much still to say, but was it too late?
As I continued to sail high in the sky in my Explorer, I kept expecting an impact, but it didn’t come. (Another example of God’s grace, I decided, for although I knew it would be impossible to go up and never come down, I realized, “Nothing is impossible with God.”) I pondered, if I was going to die anyway, wouldn’t it be just like God to spare me that final pain. Then, I began to wonder if He did that for other people who were also in the process of dying.
All of a sudden, I was back in the large two-story house. I realized I probably only had maybe a few minutes to say good-bye as my immediate family all started showing up, seeming to have just come together from somewhere else. (Maybe it was the place I was headed when I decided to turn around for something I forgot.) As I started speaking with each of them, they didn’t seem to notice I was different, but I sensed I was different. I told them I thought I had already died, but God was giving me a little time to say goodbye. One family member acknowledged the accident, “Yes, we just saw the guardrail crushed in two and wondered what could have happened to it.”
Another family member sat down beside me and took my hand to provide support, then a different one came and sat with me. But they each came momentarily and didn’t stay long enough for me to share my heart with them individually. There was also an array of activity and busyness all around me, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to emphasize enough that I didn’t know how long I’d be here!
Then I woke up to my husband checking in on me to see if I was feeling any better. As I stared up at him, I appreciated his servant’s heart and the diligence with which he had made our ranch such a nice secure place to be. I was sure happy to be back in our cabin, not at that two-story house in my nightmare. But I wondered, “What will happen to him when I’m gone? Have I expressed what I really wanted to say when I thought I only had moments left with him?”
Then, I thought about our children and their spouses, how proud I was of each couple for caring for one another and considered the strength of our sons and sons-in-law, and the sacrifices they make daily to provide for their families. And I thought about what gentle mothers the daughters and daughters-in-law were, how attentive and caring, pouring themselves into their offspring and knew generations to come would be blessed because of their actions. I wondered if they knew the way I felt, what I wanted them to know in those almost real fleeting moments from the dream? Did they each truly know how much richer my life had been because of them? Could they tell?
I had to admit that when I was young, the next age level always looked more fun. When we were dating, I wanted to be married. When we got married, I wanted children. When we got four children in four years, I wanted them out of diapers and to be able to sleep all night again. Next, I wanted them to be able to converse, but afterwards I wanted them to quit jabbering so much and take their naps. You see, I always thought the next season of their life was going to be easier, instead of catching a glimpse of how absolutely amazing each age and stage really was. So ultimately, I sat at home with an empty nest, wondering why I had wished their childhood away.
Then I thought of our precious grandchildren, and how God had given me another opportunity to pour myself into the life of a child, 15x’s over, and this time to slow down long enough to enjoy it. I have sought to let the grandchildren know that God made each of them “fearfully and wonderfully” (from Psalm 139) and that He has a special plan for their life (from Jeremiah 29:11), giving them strengths and talents to fulfill that plan. But did they know how much their respectful and obedient attitudes plus wise decisions had blessed me as their grandmother?
So many questions swirled in my mind that day, and I realized that one of the greatest lessons my grandchildren were teaching me was to seize the day, to enjoy each stage. And I thanked God that I was still on earth and able to choose to be happy in that moment.
Our family lost a precious brother a few weeks ago, and he definitely knew how to choose happiness. Our mother took extremely ill and was hospitalized for the summer away from us six children, while our oldest brother (17) organized how to get the crops in, this brother (14) helped with the farm and learned to play the guitar, teaching us harmonies and making up silly songs to pass the time. He was a self-taught, phenomenal musician, songwriter, and performer. A few weeks ago, I was watching a family video where this precious brother was leading us in a song from his favorite artist, Roger Miller, Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd:
Ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd; ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd; ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd: But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to!
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage (x3): But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to
All ya gotta do is put your mind to it
Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it!
Well, ya can’t go a-swimmin’ in a baseball pool (x3): But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to
Ya can’t change film with a kid on your back (x3): But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to
Ya can’t drive around with a tiger in your car (x3): But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to
All ya gotta do is put your mind to it
Knuckle down, buckle down do it, do it, do it
Well, ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd (x3): But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to
Ya can’t go fishin’ in a watermelon patch (x3): But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to
Ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd (x3)
At the end of the song, my brother simply said, “You know, there is a lot of truth to that line in the song, if we would just listen and apply it to our lives.” The words say it all, for none of us truly have any control over our circumstances, no matter how difficult they might be, and we only get this one chance to live this life. So, Dear Sisters, wherever you are, whatever season you are in, “You can be happy if you’ve a mind to.” Today, may you enjoy your family, while you have the opportunity!
(NOTE: While it might appear that this dream was recent, since I just lost a beloved family member, I dreamed this 12 years ago and recently found my notes.)