Growing up, my dad always talked about “the land.” A mythical place, he would talk about acreage like we were already living on it – we just needed to find it. Later, while digging into my genealogy, I discovered that my Irish ancestors, the MacQuillins, were forced off their land by King James. They never regained the “Lords of the Route” aristocratic status they had once held in the imposing Dunluce Castle. The dream about “the land” in my family is centuries old.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I dreamt about him doing what boys do and growing up: graduating high school, college, falling in love, getting married, having a family. The diagnosis of autism and intellectually disabled, coupled with bipolar disorder, has effectively squashed those dreams for my oldest child.
It is a painful thing indeed to have had hopes only to have them dashed, daily, by the onslaught of autism. Yes, I know, there are many people with autism who live full, productive lives. If you know anything about autism, it is this: if you’ve met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism. Each person is different, with various needs, disabilities, eccentricities, and triggers. Still, there is a distinct, tangible grief that comes with any child’s diagnosis.
On mine and my husband’s first date, he asked me, “So…what are your hopes, dreams, and aspirations?”
I thought it was the strangest question ever – but one totally in keeping with Greg’s character. He genuinely wanted to know – and what we discovered was that we had the same dreams. With eight years of marriage behind us, at Thanksgiving of 2015, we still shared those dreams: to one day own a farmhouse on land (there’s that land dream again), to grow our own food, to live in peace and quiet.
We wanted to live out 1 Thessalonians 4:11 -- “…and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you…”
My husband, who grew up on a hog farm in Ohio, and I shared this dream of leading a quiet, Godly life. A life in which we’d have dogs and barn cats and goats. A life in which our children would know what it felt like to run through waist-high hay fields and gaze up at starlit nights, unencumbered by the visual noise of streetlights.
But sometimes, those dreams meet the sundown of a day’s end, and they are no more. Greg was shot and subsequently paralyzed in a random crime event right after Thanksgiving of 2015. Over the last 20 months we’ve dealt with many losses, not just the use of his legs. Knowing we can never take a non-accessible vacation again, or he cannot walk his girls down the aisle on their wedding days.
The Lord has blessed us with some successes and a few realized dreams. Because of an ingenious device called a UFloat, which is like an upside-down life jacket, Greg has realized the dream of being able to get in a swimming pool and doggie-paddle around. It’s the closest thing to standing he can do. We acquired a standing frame, but the first time he used it, the handle broke and hydraulic fluid leaked all over the floor. But the UFloat has allowed him to get in water and move, on his own, without the wheelchair. Praise Jesus.
Perhaps the hardest dream of all to let go, for me, is the dream of the farmhouse with the rocking-chair front porch, the big country kitchen, hearing roosters bearing testimony to the break of day. It is hard to let go of a dream shared with the love of your life. I am so very grateful for the house that was made handicapped accessible for him, and am beyond thankful for the people that made it possible.
I believe, though, that God is working even in the sundown of dreams. Even now He is giving us different hopes, dreams and aspirations. Perhaps one day He will bless us with the fulfillment of the farm; perhaps He has other plans for us.
The thing is this: God’s plans for us are so much bigger than our dreams. His plans, holy and perfect, may lead us down paths that end, then He walks us through the woods until He reveals a new path. Right now, it does feel like we’re in the woods, trying to find the way – but I am so thankful that God is leading us through this time, drawing us closer to Him, and to each other.
To God be the glory.
Peace in Him,
© 2017 Terrie McKee