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Earlier this week, in a rare moment when I was not being woken up by my daughter or my son, I had a dream about my grandfather. It’s been almost 4 years since he died, of an aggressive lung cancer. It was against his wishes to have a memorial service, and I was away at the beach celebrating my last child-free birthday when a few of my family members scattered his ashes into Amazon Creek.

My mom and I visiting Papa Jack near the end of his life.

My mom and I visiting Papa Jack near the end of his life.

My grandparents were never churchgoers when I knew them. Living most of their lives in the Bible Belt, they felt they didn’t fit in with church people. They were raised in church, and took their own children to church for a time. I’m not sure what my grandfather believed, but I certainly never heard him profess to be a Christian. In the months leading up to his death, I heard that some of my cousins in Kansas wanted, but were unable to, fly out to Oregon to lead him to Jesus. My mother said in his last days she spent hours holding his hand, reciting the 23rd Psalm and saying the name Jesus over and over.

Anyway, I have very orthodox Christian beliefs. I believe in heaven and hell, but who goes where is a private matter between each person and God. God is inviting us all to heaven – we just have to say yes. I think there are plenty of people who claim to be Christians who haven’t really said yes to Jesus, and I think there are also people who don’t go to church or don’t talk much about religion who are on good terms with God. And who knows what might happen on someone’s deathbed.

In my dream about my grandfather, he was still alive. I was surprised. “I thought you died!” I said.

He explained that he was still alive, but he was just living in another place where I couldn’t visit him right now. “I’m with Jesus,” he told me joyfully.

I’ve been talking a lot lately with my 3-year-old about spiritual things. She just keeps bringing up all these questions about God and what happens when people die. “Is God real?” she asks me. “Someone at the park told me He’s not real.”

“Well I believe God is real,” I say. “Some people have different beliefs though. It’s all a little bit of a mystery.”

So we’ve been talking about mysteries. Questions that haven’t quite been answered by science. Bigfoot is a local mystery we’ve talked about. Most people don’t believe in Bigfoot, but a few people are really convinced. Dreams are a bit of a mystery too. Sometimes I’ve had precognitive dreams – I had a friend who was biking across America and I dreamed she was hurt. I found out later she’d broken her arm. I had some friends in Portland and I dreamed they were moving away – I knew it couldn’t be true because the husband was in the middle of a master’s program. Then we had them over for dinner and found out that in fact, he was dropping his program and they were about to move to Alabama. There was no reason I should have known about either of those events.

So my dream about Papa Jack? Was it just my unconscious mind telling me what I wanted to hear? Or could it be something more?

Well, it’s all a little bit of a mystery isn’t it?

My grandfather with his first four children. That's my mom on his right.

My grandfather with his first four children. That’s my mom on his right.

Papa Jack and Mama Anne with Aunt Cathy, Uncle Joe and my mom (the baby).

Papa Jack and Mama Anne with Aunt Cathy, Uncle Joe and my mom (the baby).

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Happy Halloween and Happy birthday to my grandmother 🙂

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A few weeks ago my parents treated us to a family beach weekend. My husband works a lot and we don’t have extra money, so it’s rare to get away for a weekend. It was a gorgeous, sunny September weekend in Newport, Oregon. We walked along the edge of our continent, dined on corned beef and Scotch eggs at Nana’s Irish Pub, watched sea otters play at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and slept deeply and peacefully against the white noise of ocean waves out our window.

On Sunday morning, I felt the urge to visit the wax museum. I used to love visiting the wax museum as a kid, hadn’t been there in about 16 years, and wanted to check it out as an adult. I thought it might be a tiny bit scary but surely my brave 3-year-old could handle it.

We arrived and then as soon as my mom purchased tickets and it was time to go through the turnstile into the museum, MJ started to freak out. She noticed it was dark inside. I wanted to go in, so I told her that she could just wait outside with Grandma and we would see her in about half an hour when we got done. My husband and I (plus baby in Ergo carrier) entered the museum and I was quickly entranced by the American Idol exhibit which featured…karaoke! Much to Spencer’s chagrin, I began singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” on stage, and then moments later MJ and my mom arrived. Both my mom and daughter were thrilled to sing on stage with me.

What made MJ change her mind and be willing to enter the wax museum?

Light.

The woman at the front desk gave MJ a tiny flashlight to wear on her finger. “Will this help you go through?” she asked. “Yes,” my little daughter nodded and bravely ventured in holding Grandma’s hand.

Light makes things not so scary.

Our world is in a crisis. The refugee crisis, the climate crisis, the gun violence crisis. There are a lot of scary and dark things going on in the world. Politicians don’t seem to be helping much. Religious people don’t seem to be helping much either. It would be easy to get very discouraged by the darkness. But….

The light has already come into this world. Jesus is our light. He helps us to see in dark places. And he is always with us .

“In him was life, and that life was the light of man. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5

I don’t have to be afraid, because God is with me always. I can be thankful for that.

At Oregon Coast Aquarium with MJ, facing one of my big fears. Photo credit: Alice Evans

At Oregon Coast Aquarium with MJ, facing one of my big fears. Photo credit: Alice Evans