Warning: this ain't no light-hearted blog for today.
I have a secret. A silly secret when you think about it, but it's a secret nonetheless.
I am terrified of dying.
I know, right? I'm a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that heaven is my eternal home and I know for a fact that I am going there.
But see, many, many years ago (let's say when I was 23 - oof, that was 15 years ago), I had bronchitis and took nyquil to help me sleep and yes, I had crazy dreams. But I dreamt that I was in Forestry school (I was at the time) and we were doing soil samples (where you collect soil beneath the forest floor and determine whether silt/clay/loam - absolutely fascinating to me) and a winter storm came and we all ran into a barn to wait it out. I was freezing and someone had built a fire to warm up. And then there was loud crashing and banging and the roof caved in and I was completely covered in snow and heavy lumber. It was pitch black and I told myself to stay calm, help was on the way. And in the back of my mind, I was praying (I don't know about you guys, but I usually end up praying in my dreams) that God would rescue me and if He chose not to, that He would forgive my sins and take me into His loving arms. The dream continued in that it stayed pitch black and I had died. And there was nothing. Just pitch black. No heaven, no hell, just blackness and I was alone. I woke up screaming and shaking. I knew it was just a dream brought on by the wonder of drugs, but it was still very real.
Fast forward. I have anxiety attacks. I literally freak out. I start breathing heavily, my heart races and I panic, thinking that this is all there is. I wake up my husband, my body sobbing with pain and sorrow and fear as he prays over me, asking God to protect my heart, to still my heart, to fill me with peace. These attacks would occur more frequently when I was getting closer to God in my service or writing (go figure). And nothing could stop them from coming. Nothing. I would tell myself that heaven was real. I read scripture on what heaven was like, but it wasn't enough. I begged God to give me something, some kind of visual to know what heaven was like. Something tangible for my over-active imagination.
A few months ago, right before bed, hubby and I were doing our quiet time (very rare, I usually never do it at bedtime) and I was talking to God, my eyes closed. 'Tell me Lord, tell me what heaven is like.' I imagined the way I wanted to look (vain I know, but hear me out). I imagined my hair huge and long and tied back with flowers. My dress was your typical Arthurian dress with long sleeves, a tight bodice and a train that was about ten feet long. It was turquoise. With sparkly beads. I had no blackheads, no wrinkles and no wobbly chin (shut up). And I imagined I was walking with God. Now God is huge. So as we walked, my head only came to the lower part of His chest, and my arms circled His huge arm as He held it out for me to hold. As we walked, I leaned against His arm, enoying the warmth. We were walking through the most beautiful garden, down a gold path. The sky was so blue. God kept pointing out different flowers and when I would look, the flowers would turn towards us and open wide, showing their beauty. Then I asked God if we could walk in a field of lavender. And it changed. A large white castle with blue turrets was off in the distance, looking majestic. And this was our conversation:
me: Thank you for Dan and Jackson
God: (hugs me) I knew you'd love them.
me: Where are they?
God: they're at the castle. Waiting for you.
me: Where's Daisy? (my neurotic dog)
God: in the field. You can see the lavender move about as she runs
me: Can Jackson look like Dan when he grows up?
God: You know who he'll look like? Jackson.
me: (I laughed - then became serious) What about X and Y? (people I know who are dear to my heart and not believers)
God: their salvation?
me: Yes. Can't You do something?
God: Yes. But they ultimately have to choose on their own.
me: Can't You do more?
me: look. No headaches. No stuffy nose. Tanned skin. No pimples. Long hair. Vain isn't it?
God: wanting to look your best is not vain.
And then I woke up.
Occasionally the panic attacks sneak up on me. Sometimes quietly when I'm not paying attention, and sometimes when I'm imagining life when hubby retires or Jackson is old enough to have children. I fear getting old. The aches, the pains, what if I get cancer? What if Dan gets cancer and leaves me alone?
I shut my eyes tightly and I can see that lavender field and that white castle in the distance, and I can feel a strong arms within my grasp as I lean against a strong shoulder that is holding me up.
And as for my over-active imagination, I choose to see life as an adventure. Wait, that's too cliched. I am now seeing my aches and pains and frustrations as ... something to experience. Not a hinderance, but something to feel. I don't mind getting older and having hip problems because then I can 'feel' it. Does that make sense? I can collect those discomforts in my hands and feel their intricacies, knowing that soon, I'll never feel them again. I will embrace my pain, and my suffering and then 'feel' through it, and possibly write about it (write what you know!) and then let it go. I'm looking forward to the day I can eat fettucini alfredo swimming in cream sauce, and drink cold milk with oreo cookies (lactose-intolerance sucks and don't even tell me that there are great alternatives. Nothing compares to properly made cream sauce)
My prayer for all of you is that you would 'see' those lavender fields and you would run towards that white castle and that you would all have tanned skin and gorgeous hair. And you would feel that strong muscular arm within yours as you lean on your God and just say hi.
Jenn Kelly is the author of "Jackson Jones: the Tale of a Boy..." books. She has an over-active imagination and dreams far too large for this world. She is currently working on a YA dystopian but her Amish novel is starting to push on her heart so she may switch over. She loves walking in gardens, loves lavender and looks fantastic in turquoise with flowers in her hair. This is a picture of her eating a hot dog in Central Park, NY. http://www.jennkelly.com/