I had three dreams last night.
This is very exciting, because it meant the pager was quiet and I got some sleep.
I have had some very hard weeks, working 80 hours or more a week, and I look forward to less overlap and more balance as this transition settles. But regardless, I am grateful for work, and even more grateful for work I enjoy. It would be lovely to sleep without a pager, but even getting to sit down – much less lay down – is more miraculous than anyone realizes until you suddenly don’t get to do it anymore.
My first dream was that I was walking through the hospital on my way to the cafeteria, and I was very hungry. There may be no more spiritual meaning to this than I didn’t eat supper before going to the chaplain’s sleep room, but stay with me. I got to the elevator which I take down a floor to where the cafeteria is, and noticed in my hand was the slip of paper that gives me a free meal for working the 24 hour shift. Sometimes we use it on the children, but this time it was just me. I was so hungry, and also aware of feeling weary. Not just sleepy, or overly tired, but the kind of weary you feel in your bones.
As I reached out to push the button to call the elevator, I watched in slow motion as my meal ticket slipped out of my hand and fell down the elevator shaft beyond my reach. There was nothing I could do. I did not shout or cry, because I was too weary. I did not even mourn the loss of my meal because I was aware that what was on the menu was not really good – not just not tasty, but not good for me somehow. So I was relieved that I didn’t have to eat what was bad, but so weary of walking and so weary of being hungry.
That was my first dream.
Now, my second dream feels like a continuation of that dream, but it was really later in the night as far as I can tell, and felt entirely separate.
The second dream started with the elevator doors finally opening. Except when they opened, it was a whole room instead of just the elevator. In the room were trays and trays of blueberry muffins. Who doesn’t love blueberry muffins? They are my favorite, and hold many good memories of my parents. We used to have blueberry muffins on Sunday mornings, and they made my mama happy. They make me happy!
These were not just any blueberry muffins, though. These muffins were the blueberry muffins that one of my bosses makes, a kind made with bananas, too, so they are extra stupendously delicious. The level of deliciousness gives the impression of being extra healthy because they are made with berries and bananas. While living on them wouldn’t be healthy, your body feels good after eating them. Eating a good blueberry muffin is the opposite of being weary.
And I ate blueberry muffins, in my dream, and felt better.
There are eight thousand layers to what all of this means, but I want to document a few highlights:
It’s been a hard five years, folks.
It’s been a hard five years that used up every resource I had just to survive, internally and externally, and now I’ve got nothing left.
You know those pioneers that had to walk in the snow? The ones who had to first cross the river and get wet and frozen, and then get wet and frozen again to help others, over and over and over, and then once everyone was safely to the other side, when they were frozen and wet and exhausted, that’s when it was time to start walking a thousand miles through the snow?
That’s what the last five years felt like.
Except there came a moment, for the Saints who made it, when they finally rounded that last mountain, their own this is the place, the one where they could look down into the valley and see the lake and know they were finally home. They weren’t there yet, but they could see it.
That’s us now.
We have done the hard work of gathering our children, the way native women gathered plants and roots for stew and medicine while their husbands hunted.
We have endured the deaths that came as we walked west, and we have witnessed miracles of provision and protection along the way.
Christmas, with its surprise and secret gifts, was like the elevators opening to a room full of blueberry muffins, nourishment enough for all of us and a rest from being hungry.
We still need a new home, a place to settle where the girls have access to the schools they need, where we aren’t so far from my work that I miss precious time with the family just from driving.
But we are close. So close.
That’s what brought me to the third dream.
My third dream actually relates to a dream I had right before the mess of the last five years started. It was right after I was baptized, when everything was still so shiny and I had no one to take care of except me and Neitzsche. My house was clean back then, as shiny as my new life, and I was obsessed with collecting the food storage we just spent the last two years eating.
I dreamed one night that a storm was coming, Oklahoma style, spitting out tornadoes one after another, and that they were coming after me. I was directly targeted, intently attacked, and purposefully sucked up into one of the larger cyclones. In that dream, back then, I knew this was about opposition and spiritual warfare and strengthening my spiritual muscles and that if I could use the atonement to make me stronger – even beyond my own capacity – then it would testify of the Lord being at work, because it would be more than what was humanly possible and everyone would know it.
That was my first red flag that life was about to get hard.
The storm, I learned in my dream, was not going to let up for some time. There was no place to take shelter, and no way to avoid it, not if I wanted to make progress. The thing to do, then, was to stay in the eye of the storm. I could stay in the center, and be myself and live my life while the storm raged around me, and use spiritual power to keep the tornadic walls of life at bay all around me so that I would neither suffocate nor be destroyed. All around me was the black wall of stormy cloud, with only a little circle in the middle in which I could live and move and breathe, but above me was sunshine and in that was my hope.
When the walls began to shrink in toward me as the storm grew, I used prayer and priesthood power to push the walls back again. This was my practice in real life, and there hasn’t been a day in the last five years that I didn’t think about that dream. It has been a powerful experience, even an empowering experience. It gave me a visual for all we have endured the last five years, and guidance for how to keep my family safe as we endured so much.
But last night? Last night I dreamed, finally, that the storm was passing.
I dreamed that the walls began to move, not in an closing in on me kind of way, but in a shifting way that told me my days in the eye of the storm were over for now.
I was sitting in my bed, as if it were the chaplain’s sleep room bed but in my house, and the roar of the tornado began to grow louder and louder, and I watched out of the window (from our yellow house in Owasso) as the stormy wall cloud approached me.
This had nothing to with a week’s worth of weatherman threats that Christmas would be ruined by tornados, I am sure.
But then, in my dream, the other chaplains – to whom I am close not only because of working together, but because of the group therapy and supervision we do in class on Wednesdays – came through the door and threw themselves over me, the way way a football team tackles someone.
Let me just tell you: the other chaplains here in my residency unit are very good and kind to me, and very protective of me, and it has been a good and healing experience without being suffocating or intrusive. I am grateful, so grateful. I love them for the fathers and brothers they have been to me.
Then more people came through the door, and then more. Every act of kindness of the last five years, every small gift, every act of service, every prayer offered in our family’s behalf… it all brought one more person onto the pile covering me in this football tackle.
The pressure was enormous.
It was like, for one moment in this dream that felt all night, I could feel the entirety of the weight of all we had endured in the last five years.
Except I knew these were messengers of God, angels sent by the Lord to lift the burden for me, to make it possible to bear what was placed upon my shoulders, and I became aware in a new way how the atonement had helped me endure through so much through so many.
And it was this weight of everyone over me that held me down – now on the ground – grounded in my faith by every lesson they had ever taught me and every testimony they had ever shared, it was the weight of it all that kept me safe as the roar of the other side of the tornado finally passed over me.
It was horrifying.
It was loud.
It was dark.
It was a darkness so thick that I think I could have touched it if I wanted to (I didn’t), so dark that I almost couldn’t breathe.
It was the same experience I had with the first dream five years ago, except instead of coming at me the darkness was passing over me.
And then it was done.
When I woke, all the people were gone, and I was there in the sunshine, on a picnic with Nathan and the children.
And we were all okay.
We were together, and we were okay, and there was a whole picnic of food before us.
That was my third dream.
There are many pieces and details and other bits that are only for me, but that’s the outline of the story of my three dreams.
I will share more about the layers and what they mean and what I learned from it as I am able and when it is time, but I wanted to record it and not lose it. I am so grateful for revelation, and for a Father who is also my God. I am grateful for the miracle of my family, and the blessing they are to me, and the many angels who have made our family possible.
And Kyrie? We are just going to leave her alone and let her be. For us, in our context, with our child, we have done the best we could to advocate for her. Like the other children, we cannot undo what was done to her or not done to her. But we can move forward with where we are, and just be. Many children like her do better after they reach the first year, and I have decided she was just taking her time the way she has with everything else. Being a drug baby made it all harder, and just takes longer to get stronger, like our pediatrician said a whole year ago. We have decided that instead of being frustrated and upset at cancellations and delays in treatment that we thought would help, that these were instead protective. We know we have done everything we possibly could, and fought to find the right doctors who are not just good at what they do, but see her. We have created a good care team, as best we can where we are, and must work within that context rather than a context which is not available to us. We are just going to let her be, and take her time, and not miss a moment of it, and celebrate all of it.
The other children? They will have their own tornadoes, too, and I won’t be able to rescue them from every storm. Because that is their journey, and there’s nothing I can do about it. But I can pack them some muffins and teach them to pray and do my own praying that they will have angels who tackle them from time to time.
Me and Nathan? We will probably get some therapy. Our marriage isn’t in crisis, and we aren’t crazy, but we are exhausted and there’s some care needed for ourselves after all we have been through. We can practice what we preach, and get a little support – not because we are in crisis, but because we are healing from crisis.
And Christmas? You know what I love about Christmas, on an early morning the day after? I love what happens next. After the Savior is born, these two brand new parents go to the temple to make the purification offering. They are supposed to offer a Lamb, and I wonder if they realized yet they were carrying one in their arms as the swaddled baby wriggled against the strappings (much like a tornado passing overhead). But, the Lamb is not what they offer; they offer a turtledove. They offer a turtledove because it’s all they can afford, because they are desperately poor. But the Law of Moses (in Leviticus 12:8) has already allowed the substitution, meant to ease the burden of those who cannot make a great offering but truly desire to do so.
Sometimes we do our best in really hard circumstances, and it never feels like enough.
But the Lord says it is enough, because the atonement is enough.
And it is enough, even when you are weary, and even when you are hungry, and even when life is full of storms that take five years to pass over.
It does pass over, though, that’s the promise.
The Lord has instructed us that the stakes of Zion are to be “a defense” and “a refuge from the storm.” We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places and share with them, from our abundance, hope for a brighter future, faith in God and in our fellowman, and love that sees beyond cultural and ideological differences to the glorious truth that we are all children of our Heavenly Father.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love.”
Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period—we hope a short period—in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
~ Elder Patrick Kearon
“Refuge from the Storm“, May 2016