I pulled out a notebook and pushed aside the bowl of creamers and the container of jellies.
My family was at one of our favorite breakfast spots, our go-to place for celebrating big milestones. This day was decidedly less joyful, however; more of an escape from a nightmare we recently experienced.
A few miles away, our house was an island in an apocalyptic landscape. A week before, a hurricane force straight-line wind mutilated an idyllic stand of 150 pine trees into an ugly riot of splintered, uprooted sticks, violently strewn about.
Amidst the aftermath, it was hard to imagine anything good coming from it. But Kim and I have adamantly taught our kids to ask an important question anytime a storm sweeps through our lives: What does this make possible?
I took a sip of coffee. With all the faith I could muster, I reminded my kids that God was working even then, and He was going to turn the mess into something magical. Opening to a blank page in the journal, I declared that it was time for our family to dream again.
What new possibilities did this sudden and unexpected clearing make possible for our backyard?
Slowly, ideas bubbled up. It started with a list of fruit trees and visions of the delicious bounty they’d someday provide. Maybe a strawberry patch. Some raspberry bushes. Someone suggested a vegetable garden. Then a BB gun range made the list.
I don’t know who said it, but eventually, we added “movie nights.”
A vision grew of this new open space being occupied by a group of friends gathered to watch a movie on a huge screen overlooking the lake with the moon rising up from the horizon. Dubbed “Moonrise Movie Nights,” it became a dream that sustained us for the many months it took to clear the trees, receive fifty-five dump trucks worth of dirt onto our property, and wait for the grass seed that was planted to transform from something reminiscent of a teenage boy’s chin into something that looked like a real lawn.
Weeks of research on the best options for a screen, projector, and sound system led to our first trial run as a family. That necessitated adding a few more cords and cables to the setup. Along the way, we picked up a retro red cooler for drinks and an old-timey popcorn machine on a cart.
On the eve of Independence Day, a year and two weeks after the storm, we held our first official Moonrise Movie Night. I was giving an informal tour of my studio to the group of friends who had joined us. Recounting the history behind one of my paintings led to the recollection of the evening’s origin story. I got a lump in my throat realizing how far we’d come.
As the darkness fell, we gathered around the screen on blankets and lawn chairs, with popcorn and bomb pops, to watch The Muppets. The weather was perfect. Halfway through the movie, the moon made her dramatic appearance. Bold and red at first, like the sun, then slowly glowing white as she ascended, tossing diamonds onto the calm lake below.
It was a fitting culmination of a dream come true.
I share this story in case you’re in need of hope. It could be that a storm has swept through your life recently. Believe me, I know that right now, it might look more like a mess than anything resembling magic.
But perhaps the stage is set for something new to rise up.
My experience has shown me time and time again that God loves bringing forth streams from the desert and turning storms into something stunning.
Have faith. Now might be the time to turn the page and start dreaming big.