It started with a decision — I will celebrate Advent again this year by reflecting and writing each day. And then some good news — no sign of cancer right now. Relief. And then another decision: I will paint pictures on canvas for friends and family. Then, there was the holiday decorating, the baking, the gift buying. My soul began to lift.

As I made my way through the month of December writing, painting, praying, singing, Jesus began to do something in my heart. He began reminding me that He has a plan for me, a future. He breathed new life into me through snippets of His word and reminders of His love. Mostly, Jesus calmed my fears and gave me the faith to dream again.

I was intrigued by my friend, LL’s, recent blog about dreams. She talks about explaining the difference between dreams and goals to her husband, who thinks she wants to do everything.

How could I explain to my husband? It’s true. I have dreams. Not quite so extensive as everything, but dreams nonetheless. Not resolutions, mind you. After all, how many people really keep their New Year’s resolutions? And where is the inspiration in resolutions? Dreams, on the other hand, seem to be exactly the thing. They are open ended… at either end.

I used to dream that way, dream so big that it seemed impossible that I could do it all. Back then it seemed like I wanted to do everything.

Now, in the early days of dreaming again, I am just thankful that I want to do anything. Many times a day, I still experience the panic and dread of my cancer diagnosis. All it takes is a twinge in my side where my most recent surgical scar continues to heal, and I imagine a new tumor, more chemotherapy, failing health, and the end of my life. And those things may certainly be somewhere in my future. But before the panic gets too far, I remember the good news of my recent blood test, the success of my last surgery, my doctor’s pronouncement that he may have cured me, Jesus’ promise to never leave me.

And more and more, though the anxiety is not entirely gone, I have moments when I am not thinking about cancer and the future begins to open up to me a bit.

My dreams are small, really. I just want to try to get out of bed a little earlier most days so I can do things like read my Bible and exercise and write. Saturday, I spent a few minutes in Anthropologie, and it inspired me to do some redecorating at home. I also bought a few blank canvases and some new brushes at the art store with the hope of painting a little more. I’m dreaming that I might actually be able to hang some work in my local coffee shop sometime next summer. I even spent some time at work today making a list of goals to suggest to my boss at my annual review.

During most of December, I wrestled with how to experience the true meaning of Advent. More than just reading verses and lighting candles and praying prayers, I wanted the spirit of expectation and hope in Jesus to make its way into my heart and life. I was disappointed when Advent ended rather anti-climactically. In fact, I lit the Christ candle a few days early because I wasn’t going to be home on Christmas Day.

But the funny thing about that Christ candle, it’s big enough that I can continue lighting it well after all the rest of the Advent candles have burned and dripped into a mess. After I threw out their waxy stubs and packed away the Advent wreath on a shelf in the garage, I decided to incorporate the Christ candle right into my regular decor. If it works out the way I hope, I’ll be lighting that Christ candle all year until Advent comes again.

Even more importantly, I pray that I’ll be living out the truth of Advent until Jesus comes again, fullfilling His plan, dreaming about a future with Him.